Acknowledging the Majority Does Not Remove Me from the Community

So apparently the vis/ed dilemma with regard to aces having/liking sex is being rehashed again,* and I was a bit surprised to see that gray-asexuality had been brought into the conversation.  The first post to do so seems to be this one, although I’m not so good at tracking things down so correct me if I’m wrong there.

In the post, which was part of a larger discussion about the implications of the word “some” in the context of a poorly-worded asexuality presentation, “further othering/removing grey/demi folks from the community” was proposed as a con to pointing out that the vast majority of aces are sex-repulsed or celibate.  I’m just going to focus on that bullet point for now.

I don’t see what gray-asexuality has to do with this.  “The vast majority of aces are sex-repulsed and/or celibate” is a true statement.  So, what with the connection here not being readily apparent to me, I’m going to run through some possibilities.

In order for the above statement to be an untrue/damaging statement to demis and gray-as, as best I can figure, 1) asexual people would have to be a minority of the population in the ace community, and 2) being demi or gray-a would have to have direct implications for how an individual feels about sex.

Let’s just get this out of the way first.  Nothing, from online discourse to in-person meetups to the statistics I’ve seen, has given me the impression that asexual people are outnumbered in this community, and given the way things stand, I would not expect this to be due to silencing or exclusion of gray-asexual and demisexual people from asexual people.  While there’s plenty of hostility toward us if you go looking, the majority of that comes from outside the community, not within.  I could go into more detail with my own experiences in regard to being a gray-a in the midst of absolute aces but that would be boring and positive and irrelevant, so I’m not going to unless someone asks.

More importantly: What’s the rate of sex-repulsion and celibacy among demi and gray-asexual people?  I have no idea, but just as core asexuality doesn’t necessarily determine whether an individual is sex-repulsed, gray-asexuality also doesn’t necessarily determine whether an individual is not sex-repulsed.  If “most aces will never have or want sex” is a misleading, elitist, or otherwise exclusive idea, then “most gray-aces will have or want sex” must be so as well.

Presumably, if a person experiences sexual attraction to someone, there’s a lower likelihood of them feeling sex-repulsed with the target of their attraction.  But considering that even allosexual people can be sex-averse, it’s important to recognize that being gray-asexual is no better of a predictor of whether someone wants sex, likes sex, has sex, etc. since you can experience sexual attraction to someone without desire or deciding to act on it and all that jazz.  Gray-asexuality may nudge the probability scale one way or another, but it’s not as though knowing someone is gray-a or demi allows you to predict with 100% certainty whether that person is sex-averse or sexually active or just about anything else except for the fact that they identify as gray-a or demi.

That’s why I don’t see what gray-asexuality has to do with this.  Even the gray-areas of repulsion, aversion, enjoyment, and indifference don’t change the fact that the majority of aces give sex an adamant no.  If anything, I’d feel more silenced and threatened by the idea that every gray-asexual person must like sex and be willing to have it.

I can see how an unspecific statement like “some asexual people are abstinent but not all of them” — while technically accurate — can still have harmful effects in many of the contexts it’s deployed in, but if something like “the vast majority aces don’t have or want sex” is a statement that harms me as a gray-ace, then I need it explained to me how.

*This is one of those things that’s really frustrating to watch because while it’s important and it’s complicated, it also feels really simple to me?  Enough that I’m tempted to make some kind of guide to “how to acknowledge the majority of the community and cultivate realistic expectations while also acknowledging that not all aces have the same attitude toward sex,” but 1) I feel like that about sums it up right there, and 2) somehow I don’t feel like it’s my place to do that?  I don’t know, y’all.

16 responses to “Acknowledging the Majority Does Not Remove Me from the Community

  • queenieofaces

    Did you say…statistics?
    9% of grey-As and 14% of demis are sexually active. 61% of grey-As and 59% of demis are virgins. 51% of grey-As and 37% of demis are at least somewhat repulsed. 4% of grey-As and 11% of demis enjoy having sex.

      • Siggy

        I’d like to add that Question #12 was basically one of the worst-designed questions in the survey. It was trying to ask three things at once, and expecting respondents to check off one or two boxes for each of the questions. As a result, a lot of people simply don’t say whether they’re willing to have sex, or if they’re repulsed or not. The whole thing is hell to interpret, and I look forward to the improved survey when it’s released.

  • Kasey Weird

    Ugh. The idea that is so super important to make sure that no-averse (i.e. sex-having) members of the ace community totally exist smacks very much of whitewashing the whole community, and creating a partiularly problematic form of normativity within it. Because, of course, to your average allosexual, people who don’t really like sex but who still have it for the benefit of their partners, or who still enjoy sexual arousal by themselves or whatever, is totally more accessible.

    It’s just the same shit we get in the LGB community, with the “hey, we’re just like you! Lesbians wear make-up and dresses, and totally want to raise children. We all just want to get married and have kids and jobs and houses and mortgages just like you! Those other weirdoes (y’know, the ones that started the gay civil rights movement and made it possible for all us “normal” gays and lesbians to be out in the first place?) totally don’t represent us.” Or the policing that happens in the trans community, where unless you totally 100% conform to the idealized version of your gender identity, you’re not really trans, and trans women who dare to wear pants or maybe not put on make-up one day, or goodness forbid, don’t shave their legs or whatever totally don’t count. And lets not even *mention* those people who don’t even identify with a binary gender.

    It’s always, *always* “Yeah, ignore them, just pay attention to those of us who raise the least amount of challenge to your pre-existing worldview and norms. Give us protections and rights, and everything will be fine, and we’ll all be free to continue persecuting the real freaks.”

    Which is exactly what demis and grey-as *are* in the ace community – we’re closer to the mainstream norm for what people are “supposed” to be like.

    Which is all a long-winded way of saying, yeah, I think it is absolutely vitally important to make sure we keep asexuals, especially sex-averse and sex-repulsed asexuals, very much in the forefront of the ace discussion. Because otherwise they will get left in the dust when demis and grey-as start finding traction. It’s happened too many times in too many movements for us to pretend that’s not what this will ultimately turn into.

    • acetheist

      “no-averse (i.e. sex-having)”

      Well, I get what kind of category grouping you’re reaching for there, but not being sex-averse/repulsed isn’t mutually inclusive with regularly having sex. Aces who like sex might not be having it for various reasons, and sex-indifferent aces aren’t necessarily sex-having either. But yeah, it’s definitely a problem to overstate their numbers or give them priority in order to make the community seem more acceptable.

      Also, unless you’re alluding to issues regarding the ace community & racism (which I don’t think you were? but correct me if I’m wrong) it’s best to avoid a term like “whitewashing” here.

      I do see what you’re saying though, and I’ve seen that happen in a lot of other avenues.

      “they will get left in the dust when demis and grey-as start finding traction”

      I’m not so sure that that’s going to happen, exactly. Or rather, it already has happened, but in the form of “What about when you fall in love?” and “You’ll meet the right person some day,” which express belief in infrequent attraction but not no attraction whatsoever. People like that, though, are people who I would expect to get annoyed at the specificity of gray-a and demi as labels, and try to push a set of labels more familiar to themselves. But who knows, maybe your prediction will be right in the end.

      • Kasey Weird

        ah, yes. Thank you for the clarifications/corrections of my sloppy thinking (once again)! I definitely have much to learn, and I appreciate you taking the time to point me in the right direction.

        I am admittedly being kind of alarmist in my prediction for the future – I don’t necessarily see that being what will happen, but I do see the possibility of it, and think that making explicit effort to make sure that sex-adverse/repulsed asexuals remain visible is the most effective way of preventing the community/movement from going down that well-worn road.

    • epochryphal

      No. Grey and demi identities are not assimilationist, and do not lie on a spectrum from more to less allosexual. We aren’t “closer” to allosexuality any more than being bi is closer to heterosexuality. We aren’t less challenging (here you’re conflating being grey/demi with being willing to have sex, the very thing this post was disputing). We’re just different, and we’re nowhere close to “taking over” asexual discourse. If anything, those of us who ID as grey/demi often pay extra attention to inclusivity in ace discourse because we’re so tentative about “diluting the message” or whatever.

      • Kasey Weird

        Ok, um, it seems like you found my comment pretty upsetting, and I’m trying to understand why that is. My impression you feel like you were being attacked, or that I was accusing you and/or other demis and grey-as of being assimiliationist.

        I wasn’t meaning to imply that. I was simply pointing out the *potential* risk for assmilitionism to occur in this community, as it has in many others. It also sounds like you (and the other demis and grey-as you know, are not only aware of this risk, but are actively working to avoid having that happen, by doing exactly the same thing that I am suggesting it is important to do. So, we agree, basically?

        I think the thing that you are objecting to is the (Again, admittedly alarmist) tone with which I was making my point. The alarmism might seem over-the-top to you given your experience in the ace community – I am couching it more in my experience of other communities that actually do suffer from having been hijacked by assimilationists, and while I’m glad that it’s not currently a problem, I’m also not aware of any particular aspect of the ace community that somehow makes it immune to the *risk* and *possibility* of it going down that road if we don’t remain vigilant (which again, you say you are doing. So great!)

        I am sorry for implying that there is a hierarchy of more or less ace, though. The point I was going for was that other people might *perceive* demis and grey-as as closer to, or even (especially frustratingly) “basically” allosexual. And the impacts of that are complicated and multi-faceted, but one of the (many and varied) potential implications of that *perception* could mean that somewhere a long the line society becomes willing to change in a way that better accomodates demis and grey-as, while ignoring (or even worsening conditions for) other asexuals. I’m not sure what this would look like, but it has happened to enough other marginalized groups that I think it’s likely. And the reaction of the demi/grey segment of the ace community when that happens will be the true test of assimiliationist tendencies or not.

        And I hope you’re right, and that the community is different (or that we’ve finally learned from others’ mis-steps, and we’ll get this one right). But I also think that being vigilant is important, and so I stand by main thrust of what I originally said.

      • Kasey Weird

        Crap. i should also add: I defined my terms really awfully in my original post. I should have, this entire time, been talking about “asexual people who engage in consensual sexual activity” rather than “demis and grey-as”. There is a fair amount of overlap in those two groups, but I really shouldn’t have conflated the two, and I really do know better than that. Hopefully my original point will make more sense if you replace “demis/greys” with what I actually meant :/

        Also, I only just now read your other comment, re: the confusion that can come along with being demi/grey-a. I can actually identify with parts of that, although I’d never thought about it clearly enough to put those words to it. It makes it way more clear to me why my original comment will have been particularly frustrating to you, and I am sorry for that confusion.

        • epochryphal

          Hey, thanks so much for these great responses! Yes, I think you’ve pinpointed why I felt so upset. I also despise spectra in general, everywhere, sooo that too.

          I do think you’re right that we all need to be vigilant, although I would downgrade the intensity
          of that word to conscious, instead? At this point in time, as I think the recent series of discussions is making especially clear, all sides of our wonderfully n-sided polygon are sensitive and feel self-conscious and easily othered.

          I also want to contest your opening paragraph, the idea that allosexual folks find sexually active (or, as I initially responded, grey and demi) aces to be more accessible / normative. That has not been my experience, in vis-ed or interpersonally. I’ve found a lot of allosexual people, especially queer ones, can grasp “no sexual anything” and even adopt a sort of “my totally safe ace best friend” attitude…but have a lot of trouble with aces having sex (Dan Savage calling us deceptive/selfish comes to mind, because allosexual partners deserve to know their partner is sexually attracted to them doncha know), or with confusion or different (eg foggy) experiences of sexual attraction.

          Tl;dr being ace-spectrum is always hard, just in different ways, and different allo people/groups react better (or “better”) to different types of aces. That’s part of why I think your alarmism is, a bit unfounded: I just don’t see ANY type of aces gaining traction. (Again, yes to consciousness/vigilance, and doing something if that starts happening!)

  • epochryphal

    Ok, false dichotomy: criticizing “most aces will never want to have sex” as hurting grey/demi folk, does not equal asserting “most grey/demi people will want to have sex.” This whole “most” thing is horrible.

    I wrote this because, in my experience as a grey-a and talking to other grey-a’s, a loooot of us feel confused about sexual attraction (the “fog” metaphor) AND often, relatedly, about whether we want to have sex. And in that state of confusion, where “indifferent” doesn’t quite apply, how much more polarized are “repulsed” and “favorable” — so to frame aces, as in ace-spectrum people, as in asexuals plus grey-a’s and demis, as “most do not want sex” is to my ears implying this certainty that questioning audience members may well not have, and creates a barrier to coming to identify as ace-spectrum especially for grey and demi folks who are already less likely to hear themselves reflected in 101s beyond a cursory definition.

    ((I’d also like to talk about that certainty and neurodivergence…))

    It’s less to do with percentages/correlations/likelihood of grey folks being sex-repulsed/-averse, than to do with the compounding of “this is what Most asexuals are like” with “here’s a copypasted definition of grey-a and demi, now back to asexuals.” And there’s no discussion of, indeed, what it would be like to feel sexual attraction but be sex-repulsed.

    (Plus the ambiguity of “ace” is giving me a headache. Do you [general you] mean asexual? Do you mean the whole asexual-spectrum? When you say “most aces will never want sex” does that include demi and grey folks who experience sexual attraction, or not?)

    bleh. That was an informal post to begin with; I hope this elaborates and makes sense? I just, my first instinct was that “most aces are sex-repulsed” would make it harder for folks to identify with asexuality, and extra so for questioning/potentially grey and demi people because more criteria and certainty.

    • acetheist

      “And in that state of confusion, where ‘indifferent’ doesn’t quite apply, how much more polarized are ‘repulsed’ and ‘favorable’ — so to frame aces, as in ace-spectrum people, as in asexuals plus grey-a’s and demis, as ‘most do not want sex’ is to my ears implying this certainty that questioning audience members may well not have, and creates a barrier to coming to identify as ace-spectrum especially for grey and demi folks who are already less likely to hear themselves reflected in 101s beyond a cursory definition.”

      Well, while the sex-averse/indifferent/favorable model may not work for labeling everyone (hi), just like some of us don’t have a clear romantic orientation (hi), it still seems to be a useful model for some people, and of those people, the numbers are pretty high in the sex-repulsed range. Would you say that we should forgo the terminology even in regard to them?

      For a lot of aces, it is certain, and that’s why it’s important to say “most” and not “all”… which is what the initial example/proposed statement adhered to. It does leave room for people of whom that’s not true.

      The problem you’re talking about is something I see happening only if the presenter introduces “sex-repulsed” and “sex-favorable” and claims that all aces fit neatly in one box or the other. That would be false and obnoxious. But that also doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, and that’s not the kind of claim that was brought under discussion.

      “It’s less to do with percentages/correlations/likelihood of grey folks being sex-repulsed/-averse, than to do with the compounding of ‘this is what Most asexuals are like’ with ‘here’s a copypasted definition of grey-a and demi, now back to asexuals.’ And there’s no discussion of, indeed, what it would be like to feel sexual attraction but be sex-repulsed.”

      Ah. Now that I can see being a problem. Less non-gray-a people defining and deciding what gray-a means without so much as acknowledging ambiguity 2k14

      • epochryphal

        I agree that as a general model it is useful! Especially sex-repulsed is a very important concept (both theoretically and as a common and viscerally felt identity).

        However, I still feel like “most” doesn’t clarify what the other people are, especially if it’s set up as an opposite-thing (always-repulsed, reversed, equals always-favorable? wow gross). It might technically, as you said, leave room, but it’s not actively inclusive. And it’s not a given
        inclusion either.

        I’ve since posted more about my problems with both “most” and “sex-favorable,” which really boils down to a really common lack of context — not an inherent one, I know for a fact these words could be used carefully and respectfully, but they are extremely vulnerable to misuse.

        (Also… I haven’t seen anyone actively, positively identify as sex-favorable? I’ve seen people try it on and abandon it because it felt bad, and I’ve seen it ascribed to abstract people. It leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.)

        I guess I want to make sure, don’t leave out us confused / wtf / quoi folks and non-sex-repulsed folks because we “dilute the message to allos” and “present all aces as sexually available” (because we always are, uh, wtf?). I want to prioritize reaching questioning, potential aces, and that means painting a very broad picture and specifying even the small parts. If that’s being done, then absolutely, describe the ace community’s composition / demographics / statistics and say “most.” Context, context, context.

        • acetheist

          “Also… I haven’t seen anyone actively, positively identify as sex-favorable?”

          I think Siggy may have referred to himself that way. But, yeah, in general I haven’t seen much personal use of it either. Which may just be a matter of exposure, but I dunno.

        • Z

          It very well could be a matter of exposure (I’ve really only started to see “sex favorable” heavily in the last couple of weeks/months), or it could be that there really aren’t many asexuals who actually are sex favorable* (or sex enthusiastic, which has been the other option but also rarely used, but some people have problems with it, found it too enthusiastic or too close to the idea of enthusiastic consent or whatever… I like it better though as it really feels more pointed about being personally “yay sex”, but *shrug*). A lot of the time it’s just an “asexual who likes sex” or something like that because there’s not really a commonly accepted term for it.

          *or there also could be people who don’t experience sexual attraction, but who like sex, who don’t think asexuality is an option for them

  • Aqua

    The problem lies in the idea that focusing on one group, must always come at the expense of another. Acknowledgement doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, but because of the additional marginalization that repulsed/averse asexuals face despite being a majority (due to assimilationist politics, and asexuals willing to have sex are more understandable to the mainstream), we have to be careful to not leave them (further) behind when the topic of asexuality and sex comes up in visibility materials.

    I understand your frustrations in your last paragraph. Here’s my attempt at it: “It’s true that asexuals have wide range of attitudes towards sex; some are open to it under some circumstances, and others never will be… Keep in mind that more than half of asexuals are repulsed or averse to sex, and simply not being repulsed or averse doesn’t mean being open to sex.”

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