I’ve been wanting to get the chance to sit down and write for this month’s Carnival of Aces all month. Asexuality! Writing! Two things I love to talk about it! Sign me up, siblings!
Ok. Today I finally got that chance. I checked the guidelines on the Call for Submissions post, and as usual, glanced at the comments to see what others had written about (I don’t like to reinvent the wheel twice).
Someone wrote about asexuality and fanfiction! Wowy zowy! That was great, I was excited. I love reading about those two things. I clicked on the post, read through it, and my mouth almost fell open. This person had some advice for people who wrote asexuals in fanfiction.
See, they had some advice for people who write asexuals in “mixed relationships” (an asexual and a non-asexual in a relationship). Specifically, for people who write the asexual having a relationship where they have sex with the non-asexual partner to make them happy–you know, advice for people like me.
They had three points. The first two were presumptions of the writer’s ignorance of asexuality and ace relationships. The third point though, really blew me away. And I quote:
“just stop fetishising Asexuality please and thank you.”
This is what I was talking about in my last post. Ignorant, baseless assumptions about people, and gross accusations against other asexuals. According to this person, my little stories, which were largely a form of wish fullfillment, where an ace character lived a happy domestic life in a beautiful home with their clever, charming and suave non-asexual partner who they happen to have sex with some times, is me fetishizing asexuality.
Who knew? I’m tired of this bad faith, of this lashing out and attacking other asexuals out of baseless assumptions. Of this rampant stereotyping and generalizing. “Someone writing about an ace having sex with their non-ace partner? Most be a disgusting fetishizing alloromantic allosexual scumbag! Just stop fetishizing us eww.”
This sort of thing is exactly what I was talking about in my previous post. Albeit milder than many of the examples I see.
You may of course, read their entire piece for yourself. On Tumblr.
This post is an intended contribution for the March 2015 Carnival of Aces: Writing and Asexuality call for submissions.
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
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.
If it’s not specifically an ace-issue, then why am I talking about it? Well some people have been led to my blog in their search for it, and it seems to be a trait that pops up with greater than normal frequency in the ace population.
It can be an uncomfortable trait for an ace to have—so many asexuals are quick to assure others that “even if we don’t enjoy sex, we still like to cuddle!” “We still like hugs and things”. Sometimes aces even use the enjoyment of platonic touch as proof of asexuals’ humanity and normalcy.
Meanwhile, those aces who are touch-averse may deeply dislike hugs, and the possibility of cuddling may be as much a dreaded, compromise-made chore as sex ever could be.
There are a variety of reasons why people may not like being touched—whether it’s due to sensory issues, disorders, trauma, or some other reason. It is often not in a phobia or fear-centered way, although for some people, the prospect of being touched makes them physically ill.
For what it feels like for myself, for instance, I do not enjoy being hugged, but I am not afraid of being hugged. It doesn’t hurt. It just doesn’t do anything for me. It’s perhaps mildly unpleasant but easily endurable as a social obligation. When I’m upset, however, and people attempt to “comfort” me by hugging me, it becomes very unpleasant.
For an apt metaphor, think of a society where for some reason, a light, painless kick in the shins is the normal and socially acceptable way of greeting loved ones, and giving comfort to the upset. Everyone else likes the kicks, but for you, they’re not quite painful but still unpleasant and unnecessary. You can easily endure being kicked and kicking whenever a relative or faraway friend visits, they don’t last long after all. When someone else is crying and would be comforted by a kick, it’s not a great sacrifice to give them a gentle kick.
But have a time come along when you’re stressed out, and crying, and someone starts giving you painless, annoying, distracting kicks. Take kicks out of the metaphor stage and let’s go back into reality, where hugs are the norm. How would a person react to being gently kicked when they’re crying? Not very well, I would imagine. That’s really how hugs are with me when I’m upset. It’s like “GET AWAY FROM ME AND STOP KICKING ME CAN’T YOU SEE I’M CRYING?”
Not that I have ever yelled that but I have told people, time and time again, not to hug me when I’m upset. Some listen. Some don’t.
Although others have covered general touch aversion more in depth than I have here, and more eloquently, I feel it’s important to talk about in an ace-perspective. An asexual who is touch-averse may experience certain repercussions that one who is non-asexual and touch-averse will not (and vice versa).
Asexuals already deal with the stereotype that they are not asexual, but rather are simply too traumatized to enjoy sex. Inability to enjoy or endure being touched is a trait that many people associate with trauma from sexual or physical abuse. Being asexual and unable to enjoy being platonically touched at all may work as a double strike against dissuading someone that that particular theory is incorrect in their case.
Likewise the touch-averse aces do not have the enjoyment of platonic touching to humanize them, and may be alienated by such humanizing-attempts. Those asexuals who are romantic and touch-averse, cannot always rely on the enjoyment of kissing, cuddling, hugging, or hand-holding to explain why their romantic relationships are “romantic” and differ from platonic relationships.
Touch-aversion is not exclusively an ace issue, but being touch-averse does impact how one experiences being asexual.
A good short coverage on Touch Aversion in general.
An very eloquent description of what being touch-averse feels like.
A woman with sensory processing disorder talks about her experiences.
An AVEN thread where asexuals talk about their experiences being touch-averse.
- A possible upcoming Asexuality Game Jam is being discussed on on /r/asexuality. The concept of a Game Jam is actually new to me–it’s essentially a session where people gather to produce games in a short period of time. This one would be themed around asexuality. I think it’s a really neat idea and would love to see it take off and create some interesting ace-friendly games. Remember that there are a lot of different roles and skillsets needed in game creation, and that there are a lot of easy-entry methods to make amateur games these days, so prior game-creation experience is not needed to participate.
Speaking of how I found out about that…
- From the Midwest Aces Meetup Group, a new Meetup group which is open to aces all over the Midwest. I was very happy to see that there are a lot of online meetups and activities in the works for those of us who can’t travel for in-person meetups for whatever reason. There aren’t a lot of places for aces to just hang out and make friends, and just like chat with each other or game, so seeing another space for that is cool.
[UPDATE December 2014: The group Midwest Aces has since closed. What a shame, hopefully there will be new groups in the future to make up for it. It was fun while it lasted.]
All this talk of new resources is inspiring, but of course every community sometimes loses an old one:
- This week, the asexualityresources tumblr closed. Hopefully everyone had time to make backups of anything they wished to save, and we will see more asexuality resources created to take the place of old ones we lose.
There aren’t even words for how excited and happy this makes me. (And not just because I need tuition money, heh). No, I’m excited because this is a resource, a real, established resource we will have that will help us support each other and other aces. This will help us give an ace a leg-up in getting an education. This is the kind of thing we need and that I hope we will see more of.
It is also another thing that will hopefully increase visibility and establish our credibility and the validity of our movement and identity. My college at least, will put scholarships that students have won on a list, and will say “X scholarships is awarded to students who are X. Students from this university were awarded this scholarship in 2006, 2008, and 2012.” I’m sure some other schools do similar things.
Not to mention having an actual established scholarship fund that we can apply to just helps our personal credibility. Having a scholarship fund established for aces flies against the idea that asexuality is just some flimsy litle online thing that has no real validity or presence in the offline world.
Written for the September 2014 Carnival of Aces
Allies are marvelous, of that there is no doubt. In some spaces, it’s pretty trendy to rag on allies right now. Allies, after all, are not actually members of the minority group they ally with. They don’t know exactly what it’s like to be a member of that minority (although they often have a better idea than non-allies). It can be argued that they don’t have a big a stake in achieving equality as actual members of the minority group. After all, even if their parent, sibling, child, or significant other is a minority, it’s still not the same as being one yourself, having your entire life often decided by the way society and individuals view that minority group.
And yet Allies are probably one of the most important factors in advancing equality for any group. As much as we (rightfully) want to treasure the voices of the minority group members themselves, as much as we want to give them the attention when dealing with X minority group issues, as much as we want to criticize allies for their perceived faults (doing it for self-glory, only it so long as members of X group are nice enough to them, wanting to be the savior of X) they still are members of the majority. The majority that we want to convert to allies, that we want to convert to believing in our cause and aiding us in making political and social changes that we want made.
It’s only by converting a sufficient mass to ally-ness of some kind that we achieve a change in society as a whole.
So I like Allies. But where are the Allies for asexuals? I haven’t met any. I can’t say what affect they’ve had on me, on the asexual community, because I’ve never met any. Never met a blogger that was non-ace that blogged regularly about ace issues (even just as a side-facet to a larger focus on feminism, human sexuality, or LGBT+ rights).
I don’t think asexuals have a lot of Allies. Sure, we have some people that acknowledge that we exist, that asexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation. That’s good. I’ve even seen some non-asexual people stick up for asexuals and for the validity of asexuals.
Does that make an ally? Is that what we should consider an ally to asexuals? I do think that allies would have to be/do those things, believe asexuality is real (obviously!) and stick up for its validity and stand up against misinformation. But isn’t that setting the bar a little low? Shouldn’t Allies be doing something more than just believing we exist and telling some jerks off?
Shouldn’t there be at least some Allies doing actual advocacy work for asexuality? Increasing visibility, spreading information, providing resources?
For an example of the kind of work an asexual ally could be doing, we can look at The Trevor Project for instance, an organization to aid young LGBTQ people, that is neither ace-ran (as far as I know) nor ace-focused, and yet has made the effort to provide resources for asexuals in need. That is the work of advocacy. That is the work of an Ally.
So why are there so few asexual allies? There are non-asexuals out there that believe asexuality is real after all. I think it’s because they do not see the need for asexual allies, for ally work. A lot of people say “oh so you don’t want to have sex. How could that negatively impact your life?” or “no one cares that you don’t want to have sex” or “why are you even bringing it up?” or even “I think life is easier for asexuals.”
I think it’s hard for many people that aren’t actually ace to realize the problems aces deal with on a day-to-day basis. The problems and negative impact of sexualnormativity just isn’t felt by non-asexuals; how could it be? So if they don’t know the issues we face, the problems, how can they feel that there is a need for change, for improvement for aces? For advocacy, for activism? There is this belief that asexuals don’t face real problems because of their asexuality, that the only issue we have is “visibility”, and that that is a minor problem.
What can we do to change that? Well, we can stop being satisfied if someone like a friend, family member, or partner just acknowledges that asexuality exists and is real. I know; it feels amazing just to have that, but we need to push further.
We need to do deep visibility work, and get people to understand not just that we are ace and we exist, but to understand what it is like to be an ace, the problems that we face. To understand why they need to be allies, activists, and advocates as well. We need to convert our supporters into Capital-A Allies, who go further than just believing asexuality exists and supporting us as individuals. We need to make them see the reasons to work personally on improving ace representation and visibility.
Non-Ace Allies are vital and we need more of them.
I just cleared out the spam queue and while the Louis Vuitton bags *might* have attract some buyers from this blog’s audience…I don’t think the Cialis and Viagra offers would have gotten many takers here, no matter how amazingly low the prices were.
When the moment is right, most of us don’t want to be ready.
Spambots, taken note: You are looking at one of the few groups of humans in which many of those belonging to it are perfectly alright with never becoming aroused and are actively working to make it perfectly acceptable to never perform sexually.
The August 2014 Carnival of Aces is on The Unassailable Asexual. The Pure Asexual. The Gold-Star Asexual. True Asexuals. Real Asexuals.
These are all terms to describe the kinds of asexuals that meet whatever qualifiers someone has set for what makes up an asexual.
There is an agreement on what makes someone an asexual that is widely agreed on. “Does not experience sexual attraction”. Few people dispute that definition. The problem is that there are so many people out there that have decided there are other qualifiers to being considered a “real” asexual. Not only must you not experience sexual attraction, you must also not masturbate. Or have sex with your partner for any reason. Or you must never have been raped or traumatized. Or you must not be physically impaired or its probably the physical impairment that’s causing the asexuality, you’re not a real asexual in those people’s eyes.
The Unassailable Asexual, the Pure Asexual, the Gold-Star Asexual…I don’t think such a person actually exists, anywhere. The goal-posts are constantly moved on us, and if you meet one random stranger’s requirements for respecting the validity of your identification, there will be another whose standards you do not live up to.
You know why there is not, and can never be a true Unassailable, Gold-Star Asexual? Because of one contradictory dichotomy you’ll be caught between. That Inescapable Dichotomy is:
“You can’t know you’re really an asexual until you’ve tried sex.”
“Real asexuals would never have sex with someone.”
It seems like these wouldn’t be common enough to trap everyone, but I’ve heard those two things probably more than any other myth about asexuality. And they are mutually-exclusive; that is you can never fit into both groups, never meet both criteria.
“Real Orientation” is not a concept that’s unique to asexuality. As far as I know, people of all sexual orientations are subjected to these kinds of outside (and sometimes inside) qualifiers. Bisexual? “You’ve never dated someone of the same sex? Call yourself a bisexual after you’ve had a girlfriend then.” Lesbian? “If you were a real lesbian you’d have never slept with a man.” Straight? “No guy who’s slept with another man before is really straight. I mean come on.”
We’re in good company, with everyone else who’s human and not sorted into easy neat little boxes and subjected to the scrutiny of the ignorant and judgmental.
What kind of effect does this unrealistic scrutiny have on those of who are caught between its pincers? I can only speak about asexuality, and the experience I’ve had with Real Asexual™ scrutiny myself.
Has it made it more difficult for me to accept my asexual identity? Heck yes. I meet the idea of the Real Asexual™ better than many people. My only points of assailability are my health problems and the Inescapable Dichotomy. My youth (“you’re just a late bloomer!”) is fading away into my mid-twenties, and once you’re in your thirties, you’re one hell of a late bloomer.
So it’s not because I’m especially vulnerable to accusations of not being a Real Asexual™ that makes the scrutiny damage my ability to accept my orientation. It’s because, seeing asexuals constantly under attack, constantly being scrutinized for evidence that we aren’t “really” asexual, I have to have my identity constantly assailed and scrutinized as well. So what if my asexuality stands up to scrutiny? So what if it endures being assailed and repulses all would-be attackers? Some would-be-expert on asexuality gives me a nod and concedes that well yes, I really am an asexual and get to call myself such.
Whoopty-freakin’-do. The feeling that I have no control over what I get to identify as remains. The feeling that others get to decide my sexual orientation remains. The underlying fear that I will slip up and something arbitrary will make people decide that I am a liar and not really asexual remains.
The very feeling of an identity as something you choose and that’s based on your knowledge of yourself and what best fits you, is assailed, whether your identity stands up to others’ scrutiny well.
Does this constant scrutiny cause me to not feel comfortable talking about certain things about myself and my experiences? Heck yes. Look right up there where I go with the very vague “has health problems”. Were I to go into specifics on aspects of my physical and mental health, someone out there would decide that I am not really an asexual and some medical treatment could “fix” me of what they “know” is really wrong with me and is “causing” my asexuality. There are other experiences, thoughts, doubts, that I don’t feel comfortable sharing or talking about because, while most asexuals would understand and not take them as Proof! That! Ace in Lace is Lying! I do intend my blog and writing to be for general audiences, people of any orientation.
Which brings us to what we, those in the asexual community, can do to deal with the idea of the Unassailable, Gold-Star, Real, Pure Asexual. We can keep on doing what we’re doing.
Because Gold-Starism is something that affects people of all orientations. But asexuals are in a particularly vulnerable situation, because they are not just trying to fit into a preconceived notion of what an asexual is, they’re also trying to convince people that asexuality is a real orientation. When we fail to live up to the Unassailable Asexual standard, it’s not just our right to identify that’s invalidated, it’s often asexuality’s very existence that’s invalidated along with it.
Many people only know one asexual, and when that asexual fails to meet the criteria they’ve made up for what a real asexual person would be like, they dismiss the entire orientation.
“The only person I know that’s asexual is Jill, and she’s on anti-depressents, that are probably killing her sex drive. Plus she was raped. I don’t think asexuality is really a thing–there’s other reasons why these people identify as that. They have a low sex drive, or they’re just repressed, or something.”
So we have to keep on doing what we’re doing. We have to keep spreading information, increasing visibility, making asexuality something people see as valid, rather than as something they want to find an excuse to tear down because it’s easier than expanding their worldview.
We also need to promote better education on human sexuality in general, so that people better understand that things are not always simple or black-and-white in regards to sexuality and orientation. So that people understand that sexuality can be fluid and human behavior does not always match with people’s attraction or orientation. We need to promote all research into human sexuality, because there is still so much that we don’t know, even in areas of academic interest that are far older than asexuality.
We need to continue to provide support for other asexuals and make it clear that outside definitions of what makes up a “real” asexual are neither wanted nor needed. We already have a definition that works very well and encompasses a deep understanding of the nuances of human sexuality. We have given it more thought than any random passer-by.
Is anyone else planning on getting Julie Sondra Decker’s The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality when it comes out at the beginning of next month?
I am. I am so getting that book, even though it’s rare for me to buy a hardcover. (Not because I dislike hardcovers; I’m just in a state of being financially perma-broke the majority of the time and they’re more expensive). I may not be able to read and review it till the semester is over (Hi, Senior Thesis, nemesis of my life) but I’m going to buy it, and silently gloat over having it, and look forward to having the time to read it.
Because it’s the first of its kind. Sure, we’ve had books that dealt with asexuality before. There’s a collection of essays, the asexual romance anthology, a memoir, and some other stuff I’m probably forgetting, but stuff that deals with asexuality and what is, what it’s about, is largely coming from a more academic/scholarly point of view (Bogaert’s Understanding Asexuality for instance). This is the first text (as far as I know) that is a general resource on asexuality that is created for consumption by the general public versus a more niche audience (sociologists, feminists, asexuals themselves). This is the first book that we can expect to hand to anyone and have them get a clear idea of what asexuality is about and become informed about asexual issues from it.
My only regret is that I’m not financially well-off enough to buy a copy for my campus. I am pysched.
Relevant links: A Giveaway on Goodreads you can enter to get a chance to win a free copy of the book.
The book on Barnes and Noble where, according to my admittedly non-expert calculations, it’s actually cheaper than on Amazon. (Amazon lowest price is currently $31.43 + $3.99 shipping–Barnes & Noble is $32.89 but has free shipping since the order is over $25.) Of course if you’re buying the e-version the price is much lower and shipping isn’t an issue.
From the July 2014 Aces: Call for Submissions:
What do you think the best definitions are for the terms “sex-aversion” or “sex-averse”, and the best definitions for the terms “sex-repulsion” or “sex-repulsed”? Do you agree with any of the ones I provided above or not, and why? Where did you first learn about the terms and how did you come to your definitions? Are the terms “averse” and “repulsed” synonyms, or do they mean different things?
I am of the opinion that the two terms are synonyms, with the qualifier thrown in that synonyms do not mean words that are exactly the same. Though I do think they have the same meaning, “sex-averse” just has a weaker/less intense feel than “sex-repulsed”. Both mean to have a strong dislike or distaste, of sex, with “repulsion” carrying stronger connotations of actual disgust. Repulsion carries with it a physical feeling, whereas aversion can be almost purely intellectual.
These are maybe not how other asexuals see it but it’s the meaning those words convey to me.
I probably first came across the term when I first discovered asexuality, but they’re pretty self-explanatory. Sex-repulsed = repulsed by sex, sexual things, obviously. Likewise with its twin, sex-averse. It’s likely I saw them being used in conversations on AVEN or blogs and could ascertain the meaning through context immediately.
As far as the best term to use, both have their upsides and downsides. “Sex averse” comes across as less potentially judging (there are some non-asexuals that are very sensitive to anything that seems to be criticizing sex, sexual things, and non-asexuals) which makes it maybe the better term if one is looking to not offend.
Sex repulsion though, has its benefits as well. As the stronger term, with its implications of disgust and feelings of physical illness in relation to sexual things, it’s harder to challenge, harder for people to see as something that can be overcome.
Being repulsed by the idea of someone trying to kiss you conjures up images of nausea and horror. Being averse to the idea of someone trying to kiss you conjures up images of mild dislike.
I mention this only because there is the unfortunate tendency for some non-asexuals to see any repulsion or aversion to sex and sexual things as something that should be overcome, and that overcoming that aversion/repulsion will inevitably result in a better, superior, more pleasant life.
I do not think such a stance has any validity. If a person’s repulsion is causing them so much trouble in their daily life (as it does some) that they wish to overcome it, then that’s fine. However, an aversion/repulsion/personal dislike of sexual things and sexual matters should not be seen as an inherently negative thing for a person, a detractor from their quality of life. After all, many of us asexuals are sex averse or sex repulsed, and do not suffer significantly from it.
People, asexual or not, are averse/repulsed by many things according to their personal preferences, psychology, and experiences. Some people cannot stand dogs, others children, some loathe the scent of the ocean, hate train rides, can barely be coaxed to eat a vegetable, etc. Most of these personal aversions are respected, seen as minor quirks, not things to be overcome or changed.
So it should be with sex-averse or sex-repulsed people.
Do you remember The Heart of Aces? It’s an anthology of asexual romance stories. Those stories may be very good, or not, I have no idea. See, I never bought a copy of The Heart of Aces, even though I probably could have afforded it then. (Actually I think I was pretty broke then, but I would have done without some ramen for it; it was only a few dollars, and I’m very passionate about getting more books about asexuality and with asexual characters).
The reason I didn’t buy it was a kerfluffle over the cover, and the way the publishing company handled it. The cover had two very pale, thin, attractive white women on the cover, in lingerie and nighties, staring ahead with dead-eyes. The cover’s stock photo had been used on a variety of porn and erotica sites. See, when you self-publish or have a book published by a small company, the amount of money that can be spent on cover design is usually quite low (there are exceptions; some people want to “do it right” and will invest quite a bit in a good cover). One way to keep costs low is to go with a stock photo; a photo that is available for free use or for a small cost.
It is a problem with small publishing, that the stock photos will often be used many times, and that your steamy romance will have the same bodice-ripped heroine as 40 other steamy romances.
In this case, the main use of the stock photo (as erotic content) is a good indicator that it’s sexualized (if the image itself didn’t make that quite clear. Nextstepcake detailed some of the instances of the stock photo’s use here.
Some asexuals offered criticism of the cover over the sexualized nature of the photo, and for the lack of diversity. The models were the stereotypical face of beauty everywhere. They were white, they were thin, not visibly disabled, wearing traditional modern markers of femininity such as make-up and lingerie.
Some asexuals were not pleased to have one of the first anthologies for asexuals, and one of the first books of asexual fiction period, graced with a cover that depicted sexualized white women.
The person who represented the anthology on tumblr was Christy Leigh Stewart. Her role in the publishing was unclear/muddied; she stated that her postings were simply to help a friend who was behind the company that published the anthology; yet she claimed to know intimate details of the effort such as the amount of money that the effort was costing, as well as knowledge of the publishing contracts).
While her exact role was unclear, she was the one who answered the criticism of the cover, and did so by lashing out at the asexuals who had offered criticism, outright insulting those aces, such as calling them “pathetic”.
She’s on the record with such gems as:
“And, seriously, to all you bitching…make your own book! God, you good for nothing social justice types are such a fucking pain in the ass when someone tries to do something good.”
It was all the more disturbing because critique and advice from asexuals for the anthology’s title had been received very well by the representative on AVEN. The point of this blog post though, is not to slam the rather unprofessional behavior of one person involved in The Heart of Aces effort. Rather, it is to chronicle a small piece of Asexual History, while the matter still exists fairly intact in my memory, and before the relevant blog posts all disappear. (Some of the commentators have already since deleted their tumblrs, erasing their contribution to this event for all time.)
It also serves to remind me of how good the asexual community can be. Yes, there is infighting, and some ace issues get prioritized and focused on over others. But every group has that issue to some extent.
And I think The Heart of Aces debacle showed our good side, how strong we can be. We were not content to let a cover go out there that potentially sexualized women and asexuals. We were not content to just accept two thin attractive white women as the face of asexuality, as it has been the face of so many genres and stories. We remained civil (as far as I can see) and we did not remain passive and content to allow an outsider to twist the face of asexuality into something that we did not want, something that poorly represented us.
So when I read back through posts on The Heart of Aces I was really inspired, and reminded of how much this community has helped me, and how much love I feel for it. (Platonic love, I swear :P)
Other details about The Heart of Aces:
. For some comparison, the pro-rates the SWFA lists are 5 cents a word. According to Duotrope’s classificions, unless the stories in The Heart of Aces had a very, very low wordcount, it doesn’t even amount to semi-pro classification. It is, in other words, what people in the business call a “token payment”.
Did you take part in any of the controversies around The Heart of Aces? Did you witness them? If you have any thoughts or reflections on the issue, please feel free to share them!