gray context

Earlier this month, elainexe wrote this post on defining allosexuality, and in response, ephochryphal criticized it here.  I’m only weighing in because elainexe says she’s confused about the response it’s gotten (mostly from gray-as, as far as I can tell) and I thought maybe I could help.

At the end of the original post, she wrote:

I don’t know if I really have answers here, but I haven’t really seen this discussed. (Possibly because I haven’t specifically looked at gray-asexual discourse as much though ^^; )

And that actually would explain a lot.

So!  Here’s a quick, informal primer for asexual people who don’t know much about gray-aces and the discursive context surrounding gray-asexuality.

  • The term “ace spectrum” is a convenient shorthand for “asexuals and associated asexual-ish people,” and I use it all the time, but it’s best not to take it too literally.  The “asexual spectrum” is not actually that linear.  Gray-aces have argued this for a long time — see Siggy’s classic old post here and a more recent post from me here.  Gray-asexuality does not require any numerical precision and never has.
    • This is why a statement such as “We have a spectrum of sexual attraction. On one end we have placed asexual people, and on the other allosexual. Gray-asexual people inhabit the wide area in the middle,” can kind of chafe at some of us — it represents a model of our identity that we’ve rejected.
  • Trying to assess what’s “too high” and “too low” to count as gray-asexuality is a huge part of anti-gray gatekeeping.  All it has ever done is make newly-identified & questioning gray-aces anxious about adopting the label.  Having been through my share of this myself, I’d estimate that a lot of other gray-aces wouldn’t respond well to that line of inquiry, and that’s why.
  • In the same vein, trying to place an upper boundary on (gray-)asexuality tends to go hand in hand with accusing gray-as/demis of oversexualizing allos — that is, snide remarks about how we must think everyone is hypersexual and constantly having sex all the time.  Supposedly, the only reason we ID as gray-a is because we overestimate how sexual most people are; if we just Understood The Truth, we’d recognize ourselves as average allos and ditch the gray-a label.  People can get really vicious about insisting we’re just heterosexuals* in denial.
    • Given that context, it should be understandable why asking “What is gray-asexuality?” and “What if we’re contributing to compulsory sexuality by estimating average sexual attraction rates to be higher than they really are?” in the same post would hit a nerve, or at least, make people uneasy.

Aaaaand that doesn’t cover everything, but let me know if it helps.

*To me it’s funny how the “gray-asexuals are just straights” thing has persisted when, from my POV, the big-name gray-a bloggers feature hets in the minority.

16 responses to “gray context

  • epochryphal

    THANK YOU, thank you, this is much more concise. bless.

  • elainexe

    Thanks for taking the time writing this up.
    My confusion I think has mostly stemmed from the fact that the things people have linked me I have read before, and a lot of what people have said specifically in response to what I wrote I’ve heard too and agree with. So I’m trying to figure out where I went wrong between poor wording, irresponsible forgetfulness, continued lack of understanding, and combinations thereof. I’m 100% sure I conveyed my original thoughts poorly, because you and epochryphal didn’t critique the point I thought I was making. Which doesn’t mean my intended point wasn’t flawed–I’m thinking many of these things would still apply. I think I need to disentagle the specific reasons I went wrong for each part of my writing before I can clear up my confusion, which might take some conversation of a more back and forth nature. Which…I know, I haven’t exactly taken the step of starting on that yet. I’m still confused in the way that makes me not able to think well so it’s been pretty slow trying to process things. I’m hoping that’ll pass soon.

  • Siggy

    I saw that post by Elainexe, but didn’t read it very carefully until now. I think Elainexe is presenting as new some ideas which are unfortunately very old and all too familiar to most gray-A people. They are exactly the same arguments I *had* to go through as a questioning gray-A person, that’s what questioning meant for me.

    It was a lot of “but people aren’t really as sexual as they pretend” and then reading sexual behavior statistics and finding them surprisingly high, while everybody else seems to think they’re surprisingly low, and then worrying that my perception of public sexuality wasn’t too high before but maybe it’s too high now. Etc. etc. This predated most gray-A discourse (although Shades of Gray aka Prismatic Entanglements was around and yes I read its entire archives at one point), but I doubt I would have found the discourse persuasive even though I find it persuasive now.

    Anyway, I give a lot of leeway for these kind of ideas because they are after all pretty common among questioning-gray people. But I also think the whole framework ought to be disrupted.

    • epochryphal

      Yes! Very much this. The reason I chose to respond is because it was picked up by Ace News linkspams, as if it was some new and thought-provoking and groundbreaking newsworthy thing, with zero commentary — and that made me really really uncomfortable.

      I tried to be pretty clear about “hey yeah, I know a lot of people ask these questions it’s pretty normal” and how I totally yes think this is valid individual processing. It’s just troubling as a repetitive community Discourse that no one sees a problem with.

      • queenieofaces

        So I’m pretty much the only one running Ace News at this point (Coyote is technically on the blog but doesn’t contribute) and…I’m not really sure what I should be doing here? I link to a lot of things I disagree with or that I think are flawed, because I was under the impression that the blog was intended to collect all the recent ace blogging in one place, not just the thought-provoking and groundbreaking stuff. I mean, our about (which I did not write) says, “This blog is not intended as a site of discussion, but as more of a distributor.” So I’m not sure editorializing or saying, “elainexe wrote this thing even though this has been discussed before and is super problematic” is really what the blog is supposed to be for? (And, frankly, I don’t have the spoons for that, and would step down from the blog if that was what people wanted.) Or are you saying that I should just…not include it? Again, I didn’t create the blog and maybe I’m completely off the mark about what the purpose of it is, but I’ve just been trying to use it as a link aggregator, not as a stamp of approval of any of the posts that are included.

        • Coyote

          I keep disappearing a lot. It’s a problem.

          Queenie’s right that linking it isn’t supposed to be a mark of originality or anything. We don’t have very specific criteria. To end up on DFTD, it doesn’t have to be “new” new, just recently posted. If the tired old ace/queer debate were to initiate another round, that’d be eligible for linking too.

          It’s also well and good to write up a response if you don’t see any linked (or any that you like). And hey, it’s good to put a refresher out there for people who haven’t been exposed to the same stuff.

          tl;dr no one did anything wrong except for maybe me

        • epochryphal

          ah….hm. You’re right, this does come off…with implications that are incorrect, and would be a lot of work and arbitrary.

          For some reason I thought the ace news tumblr was run by someone else like redbeardedace (sp?) or the ace archivist or a historian-type person removed from, idk, certain kinds of discourse? Dunno why I thought that. Probably related to my feeling like “yo I talk about greyness allll the tiiiime my blog is great” when, actually, I mostly talk about other stuff or talk about it incidentally, and my blogs are noooot centralized.

          All that to say, I’m sorry, you’re right. I had a lot going into what I said about ace news that was unfair, and there isn’t actually something that should’ve been done differently.

        • Sennkestra

          Personally, I think it’s fine as is. But if you wanted to be extra extra cautious, you could make some short boilerplate text to append to all linkspams that’s just like “Ace news is a collection of current discussions occurring in the ace tumblrsphere. Attached articles do not necessarily reflect the view of acenews mods, and inclusion in the linkspam does not constitute an endorsement for or against any linked opinions. Ace news does not take positions for or against any linked opinions, but invites readers to make their own comments to continue the discussion.

          (Also, I can’t remember, does ace news allow self-promotion like the AA linkspams do? That’s one potential way to avoid missing certain conversations if they occur in odd corners or at odd times that are easy to miss)

        • Sennkestra

          Nvm, I finally remembered the url and see that you do allow link submission. Maybe I should do that more often….

  • luvtheheaven

    One related thing is that I really liked how Kris Nelson wrote in this everydayfeminism post: ,

    …asexuality is brought up within the context of a spectrum. However, I reject the concept of spectrums because they require two opposing, binary end points, where I prefer to think of these things more as galaxies of possibility.

    And as far as the asexual galaxy of possibility goes, it encompasses a variety of different experiences that all include a certain lack of sexual desire, interest, or attraction.

    They can include folks who are sex-repulsed asexuals (people who have no sexual desire, sexual attraction, or interest and are actively turned off by sex); asexual folks who may be totally down for kissing and cuddling, but simply do not have any interest in engaging in anything more; demi-sexual (folks who only have sexual interest in people they have developed certain emotional attachments to); or gray-ace folks who have fluctuating sexual desire and sexual attractions – just to name a few.

    Since there are so many different ways a person can experience a lack of sexual desire or attraction, there is no definitive definition of asexuality.

    This is why I see asexuality as a beautiful galaxy of identities, encompassing a variety of ways people deviate from a standard definition of “sexual” orientation.

    I just really liked her idea of “galaxies”, and the rejection of the term “Spectrum” and the explanation. And I’m glad that was posted on a more mainstream site where non-aces are reading too, it’s not something just for the online asexual community.

    But I’m not gray-a, so let me know if you think she misrepresented grayness in a vital way somehow. I might’ve missed something there that could’ve been better, I don’t know.

    • Coyote

      Mmwell, the way that’s worded makes it sound like she thinks “fluctuation” is the definition of gray-a (compare with demis being described by demisexuality’s definition) but it could also be taken to be just one example of a gray-a experience, so *shrug*

      I like the galaxies image too.

      • luvtheheaven

        Yeah I kind of noticed that too… she did say “just to name a few” right after it so I hope at least potentially gray-a people reading it realize they might fall into that asexual spectrum even if that “Fluctuation” doesn’t describe them.

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