We-statements, soft language, and identity policing

…You ready for more conflict with advice blogs?

The story starts here, with this ask/answer on Asexual Advice about “apothisexual” & “sex-repulsed.”  You may remember this as the post with the phrasing I balked at earlier in the month.

Hezekiah has since made two submissions (that I’m aware of) to Asexual Advice, one of them directly related to the aforementioned post.

I am… concerned about this.  But “this” is a vague name for it, so I am going to try and pin down some specifics here.

[cw: homophobia]

Some things going on in the apothisexual post:

  • anon says, “I found out the proper term for a ‘sex repulsed asexual’ is apothisexual” and Kiowa disagrees, “It’s not really the ‘proper term’ at all. It’s a term that some people have decided to use.” (Yes!  Correct!)
    • if it were me, I might have gone on to explain how the idea of a “proper term” is arbitrary and relative anyway (and usually classist in some form or another)
  • Kiowa then positions the “[apothisexual]’s not really the ‘proper term'” statement as part of a blog policy: “We do not advocate any sexuality terms that do not deal exclusively in feelings of sexual attraction.”
    • which doesn’t make sense because presumably they do advocate the “sex-repulsed” label, which is a sexuality term that does not deal exclusively in feelings of sexual attraction
    • so presumably, “sexuality terms” here means either “sexual orientation terms” or “terms that end in -sexual as a suffix” (and possibly conflating the two?)
  • “Sex-repulsion is an attitude” ? ??
    • Maybe for you it is?  But I wouldn’t use that word for it, myself.  My sex-repulsion is not “an attitude.”
  • “and [sex-repulsion] should stay independent of sexuality”
    • wrong
    • someone considering sex-repulsion part of their sexuality (ex. me, yes hi) or citing sex-repulsion as their primary reason for IDing as ace (which, yes, is not just a hypothetical) is not an example of someone doing something they “shouldn’t” & to say otherwise is a textbook case of identity policing
  • “Apothisexual combines an attitude with feelings”
    • why talk about Attitude and Feelings as if they are these discrete, Platonic concrete entities rather than just abstract concept labels with slightly different connotations ?
  • “We do not advocate…” “…we do not recommend…”
    • This phrasing is so… sneaky.  They’re not Bad phrases, but they’re being used in the context of What Words Should You Apply To Yourself based on nothing but really arbitrary ideas about keeping “attitudes” and “feelings” separate or whatever (rather than, say, a legitimate concern like “don’t identify as X if you’re Y because it has Z effect on R”).
  • “Our advice is to stick with sex-repulsed asexual.”
    • literally, directly telling someone how to identify

Disclaimer: I am not invested in the “apothisexual” label specifically (and kind of dislike it/have questions about its origin) but I am invested in criticizing the practice of ace advice bloggers telling people how to identify (i.e. identity policing) even when people come to them asking “how should I identify/which would be better?”  For further reading, see Sciatrix’s post on the ethics of answering this kind of question.

Some things going on w/ Hezekiah’s first(?) submission and the response:

  • Hezekiah addresses the “We do not advocate any sexuality terms that do not deal exclusively in feelings of sexual attraction” proclamation by pointing out that some LGB folk ID (their sexual orientation) as LGB in part because of reasons that do not deal exclusively in feelings of sexual attraction
    • i.e. Kiowa’s statement isn’t just policing self-identified apothisexual people but also a segment of the LGB population as well
  • Kiowa begins their response: “And that’s their call, but that’s not how we define sexual orientations within the asexual community.”
    • and that’s their call [to identify themselves based on things outside our narrow arbitrary criteria] but that’s not how we [?] define things within the asexual community [implying, what, definitions take precedence over the validity of self-identification?]
  • “I don’t have a resolution plan for that” (no kidding)
  • “I have a lot of issues with that kind of thing anyway.”
    • “that kind of thing” being choosing a label based on the kind of relationships sought or desired, i.e. something other than “dealing exclusively in feelings of sexual attraction”
    • literally “I have a lot of issues with” [people self-identifying in a way that does not follow a Narrow Arbitrary Definition Because We Said So]
    • literally identity policing
  • “When people define their sexuality solely based on their partner relationships, they ignore the possibilities of fluid sexuality, of mixed orientations” oh my god
    • Hezakiah was specifically bringing up people w/ LGB identities
    • Kiowa is saying, for instance, lesbians who ID as lesbians because they only want to date women are “ignoring the possibilities of” [being attracted to men] [& that that’s bad]
    • If you don’t see the issue with how this attitude harms lesbians, try pondering it for a bit and get back to me.
  • “If you want to define your orientation based on the relationships you like to be in, sure, go for it, it’s your life.”
    • why so passive-aggressive
    • that’s. not a sincere way to support self-identification
  • “But we will continue to advocate defining your orientation based on your feelings – not your behaviors, not the feelings you choose to acknowledge, not by a lump-sum approach.”
    • literally But we will continue to police your identity

The last submission/response post I linked contains much of the same issues, so I’ll try to pick out the things that I haven’t already covered:

  • Kiowa states “we do tend to boil things down quite a bit”
    • At this point I have to disagree because what I’ve isolated here (see: above bullet points) indicates a difference of ideology and a difference of values (between Kiowa and Hezekiah and also me), not just a mere matter of going for summaries vs. more extensive explanations.
  • read Sciatrix’s post read Sciatrix’s post read Sciatrix’s post
  • “Not all of us are as confident in our identities”
    • which is exactly why preaching a Platonic Truth to identity labels is harmful
    • emphasizing definitions & “here is what we, the authorities, think you should do” does not resolve the root of insecurity or help people become more autonomous in this matter
  • “we advocate choosing orientations and identities based on–” okay look,
    • using we-statements/I-statements does not make this not a case of identity policing
    • using soft words like “advocate/recommend” does not mean you’re not still telling people what to do and how to think of themselves
    • this is identity policing, this is arbitrary and silly, this is irresponsible
    • I am tired

9 responses to “We-statements, soft language, and identity policing

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