Examples of Bad Ace Advice

A brief collection of examples of advice you shouldn’t give and advice you shouldn’t listen to.  Perhaps illustrative of why I have my concerns about ace advice blogs.

identity-policing and prescriptivism

(for better advice + more explanation of why to ditch prescriptivism: “Am I asexual?” “Who can say?”, Permission, Asexuality: The History of a Definition, notes on the narrow definition, an asexual identity prescriptivism linkspam, and a short post in summary)

  • Sara of The Asexuality Blog, in this post, tells an anon what they are and what label to use for themselves.
  • Kiowa of Asexual Advice is especially known for identity-policing.
    • Both in this old post and this old post, Kiowa tells someone that they labels they’re comfortable with are wrong for them.
    • I’ve written a detailed breakdown of some of her more recent identity-policing, as well, from when Hezekiah confronted her about it.
    • On a similar note, in this post, she asserts that “we do not label platonic attraction” (despite using both the label “platonic attraction” and “squish”), proclaims a simplistic “you either experience it or you don’t,” and declares that there “honestly shouldn’t be” “a specific label for that.”  I’m also surprised she didn’t bring up the Robin Ochs definition of bi here, as there’s a possibility that the submitter is assuming “attractions feel different” = “one type is romantic and one is not.”
    • Got this addition through the askbox: in this post, Kiowa even tells Arf, another ace advice blogger, that the way she conceptualizes her identity is wrong.
    • Update: It seems as though Kiowa is holding to the same course.  See our discussion here and here.
  • The Ask An Asexual mod, in this post, tells a young anon “It could be because you are simply young and/or nervous or scared at the prospect of sex” and reinforces the exclusive definition of asexuality by saying, “If you have in the past felt sexually attraction, then you are probably just young and uncomfortable at the thought of sex.”
  • Ruth of Queerplatonic and Aromantic Advice, in this post, tries to make an effort at encouraging self-identification… but still tells an anon “it sounds like you are aromantic” and “I would say you’re aro.”
  • Rei of Asexual Helper, in this post, tells an anon that they “classify under the grey-asexual umbrella” (a response made more confusing by the fact that the anon was asking “Am I still asexual?”).
  • An old infographic from Asexual Resources that reinforces the narrow definition of asexuality and doesn’t mention the wider umbrella at all.
  • Shapes of A Gray-Asexual Space, in this post, tells an anon that “the concept of asexuality isn’t related to whether or not someone is sex-repulsed,” which contradicts some aces’ experiences.
  • The Grace Place mod, in one of their posts, held up the exclusive ideal of the “born this way” Gold Star asexual.  The original post has since been deleted…
    • …but you can still find their original response via this post (tw: sexual abuse) with criticism from Southpaw and Queenie.
  • Token example from the AVEN forums: in this thread, a questioning ace asks if anyone has similar experiences to what they describe, involving a change of identification from allo to ace as an adult.  Members replied with speculation about their medical history, telling them they might have a tumor (!), and telling them that AVEN is not the right place to seek medical advice (which they weren’t doing in the first place).
misinformation & absence of information

(alternatively titled: ???)

  • Sara of The Asexuality Blog, in this post, indicates she doesn’t know of any pieces discussing sex-positivity from an ace perspective.
  • In this other post, Sara gives a rather confusing definition of quoiromantic without citing anything.
  • Shapes of A Gray-Asexual Space, in this post, somehow neglects to suggest gray-asexual as an applicable term.
  • The Fuck Yeah Asexual mod, in this post (cn: sex), makes a generalization that sex repulsion will “most likely tone down” “if you feel safe.”
    • That may reflect some sex-repulsed people’s experience, but I have no idea where they’re getting the idea that it’s “most likely” out of all possibilities, not to mention how this claim guilts sex-repulsed people for whom that’s not true.
  • Smurf of Kinky Asexuals, in these two posts, advises two anonymous aces to join Fetlife, without providing any warnings about the site’s web security issues, de facto policy of protecting abusers, and unavoidable porn.
    • For more explanation, see here and here.
bad relationship advice

(blanket trigger warning for abuse, pathologization, & sexual pressure)

  • Kieran of Asexual Advice, in this post, responds to a personal account of an anon’s boyfriend calling a hard limit on sex equivalent to “forcing him to stay a virgin forever” (something I consider a little more than a “red flag”) with a rather short and tepid reply ending with “Talk things out with him.”
    • That suggests to me that this mod is ill-equipped to recognize or provide advice on the subject of abusive relationships (hint: you can’t “talk things out” with your abuser, and abuse is what the boyfriend’s accusation is a “red flag” for).
  • Filbert, also a mod of Asexual Advice, in this post counsels a non-ace anon about their asexual girlfriend.
    • Hezekiah and I discussed some shortcomings of their advice here and here.  See more on this issue in this post.
    • Update: see follow-up discussion between Filbert and I here and here.
  • The Placiosexual blog mod, in this post, tells an anon to send their girlfriend to a therapist.
  • Neth of Asexual Advice (no longer a mod there), in this older post, implies an asexual girlfriend is being insufficiently empathetic to a guilt-tripping anon.
    • Although I mistook it for a more recent post at the time, my criticism of their response still stands, and I think it’s a glaring example of how advice-givers can easily overlook the possibility that a romantic partner could be abusive.
  • Clay of Dear Non-Ace People, in this post, advises a woman to try sexual things with her partner, even after she made it clear she didn’t want that.
    • This particular post received a large response at the time (as you might guess by the edit at the end), including these two posts from Bessibel which lay out the problems.
  • The Teen-Aces mod, in this post, responds to a worried ace anon whose boyfriend has “told [them] countless times that he’s not going to leave [them]” by advising them to simply “Talk to him about it,” even though the content of the original message indicates that they’ve already talked to him about it.
  • This one’s more subtle: Rei of Asexual Helper, in this post, brings up the loaded notion of “compromise” to an anon who says “the thought of doing anything sexual makes me really really uncomfortable, sometimes to the point where I have panic attacks.”
    • In the same post, Rei also comments that “it sounds like your partner is doing well at making sure you don’t feel pressured” despite the fact that anon reports, “I told her I might be ready someday so I didn’t seem like a burden.”
    • Plus, Rei makes a blanket generalization that “Talking regularly with your partner elevates [sic] any worry that might inadvertently happen between the two of you,” which heavily denies the experiences of many people who’ve been/are in abusive relationships.

(sex-repulsion, anxiety, and therapy; sex-repulsion, kink, and porn)

  • Filbert of Asexual Advice, in this post, gives specific therapy advice to an ace with anxiety, suggesting exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
    • Tristifere has explained the problems with their advice here.
    • I’d also add that, while CBT can be helpful to some, there are legitimate concerns about the harm it can cause, as well.
    • Absent from their response are any resources on recovering from an anxiety attack, for instance, or any therapist-targeted ace 101 materials like this one, which would have made more sense to include in their reply.
    • Update: Filbert has apologized for this post.  See our discussion here and here.

Related reading: Queenie’s linkspam for people giving ace advice, my advice to look beyond the question, 5 Tips for Identifying & Handling Abuse as an Advice Blog Mod

Feel free to add more in the comments, especially if you find something that wasn’t covered here.

41 responses to “Examples of Bad Ace Advice

  • Tristifere

    This one: http://asexualadvice.tumblr.com/post/132784850649/so-im-a-highschool-ace-completely-sex-repulsed#notes

    Horrid mental health advice. “go do exposure therapy or cognitive behavior therapy” … what? You need a therapist for these treatments and it’s very possible those treatments are not what is best for that (teenaged!) anon’s situation. And honestly, why does that responder think they can say what treatment someone needs from 5 sentences on the Internet? WHY? What is best for that anon is up to them and their mental health professional to decide.

    Why isn’t that ace advice blog keeping it to just giving advice to seek professional help is beyond me. Best advice would be to seek professional help – perhaps start with a school counselor or coach and see if they can refer you to someone? (I don’t know what easily accessible help there is for American teens) – and give advice on how to deal with accessing mental health while ace : how to do ace 101 while in therapy, and know that you can dump the therapist if they are unable to give ace-competent treatment.

    Especially in this anon’s case, if they want professional help, it’s important that they find a therapist who is understand and accepting of asexuality and can work with that (staying in the closet isn’t an option, I don’t think, judging from how they describe their problem). Sending that anon to a therapist without any tools on how to handle therapists and asexuality, because you think there’s some *magic hand-wave* treatment out there isn’t good enough. In fact, that can be really damaging. Some therapists are so uninformed that they will do more harm than good. Good advice blogs will make sure that advice askers will have the tools to deal with these uninformed therapists (in short: educate, check if therapist is receptive, if not – get the hell out of there and find another one).

    (I have not confronted that ace blog, because they’re awfully defensive and I don’t need the stress and negativity having to fight someone over this topic)

  • queenieofaces

    Here’s an older one, but it’s a good example of policing ace survivors and younger aces: http://queenieofaces.tumblr.com/post/90546259988/does-the-term-asexual-still-apply-to-people-who
    Also, you could probably write a whole post on ace advice blogs handling asexuality and sexual violence (meta categories include: “no you’re not valid,” “yes you’re valid but only if you meet our specifications,” and “yes, you are valid but we’re not going to give you any resources even though it seems like you’re in crisis because just telling you are valid is probably good enough”).

    • Coyote

      Oh man, I’d forgotten about that post. Another good one to add.

      Man, this is one of those topics that just gets more and more disturbing the longer I look at it.

  • Sennkestra

    I hadn’t seen it before, but I just looked at Asexual Advice’s FAQS and they literally start out with this flowchart, which….ugh.

    (Note that this is literally the first item on their FAQ page, which they rather aggressively demand all visitors read)

    (Also note the fact that there’s no acknowledgement of grey-asexuality and the fact that asexuality occurs on a spectrum)

    So, uh, yeah, don’t do that.

    • Sennkestra

      Oops, I did the image tags wrong I think, so here’s the chart in question:

    • Coyote

      …So who’s going to tell them why that definition was put on the AVEN homepage to begin with?

      • Aidan

        ..Wait, why was it on AVEN’s homepage? (I generally avoid going there…)

        • Coyote

          Oh that was just a snarky comment about how the “definition” of asexuality came about. People started congregating around the label “asexuality” before a single “definition” was decided on, and even when it was, it was never meant to be used to gatekeep.

          “Late in 2001, there was a decent amount of discussion on issues involving defining asexuality. The consensus opinion (at least the one expressed the most) was that asexuality is undefinable—each person had their own reason for calling themself asexual, and there was too much diversity in their (still very small) asexual community for any one definition to cover everyone. However, people also agreed that it would be useful to have a definition that they could give to people—having a definition would be helpful for asexual visibility.”
          Asexuality-the history of a definition, part I

    • Siggy

      On a historical note, that flowchart echoes another one that was floating around in the early blogging community: http://emma-rainbow.livejournal.com/4273.html

  • Anonymous

    While I believe the critique here is valid, and necessary, was this communicated privately with the administrators of these various blogs? I understand the concern to share this publicly so the advice isn’t followed, particularly in cases of abuse, but it scares me a bit to see this going around tumblr. I’m scared for the moderators on these blogs now, and that some people in the community might take to personally attacking those mentioned here. This is just a thought.

  • FateDefied

    I don’t know if my comment posted the first time, so I’m trying again.

    Were the administrators for these blogs privately contacted regarding these posts and poor advice given? Please understand that while I am all for calling out poor advice, especially when it pertains to abusive and legal situations, I am aware of how nasty the tumblr community can be. I’m seeing the post go around on tumblr right now, and I’m scared for the moderators on the blogs mentioned, scared that they may be personally attacked. Yes, the advice they gave could have been a LOT better. I saw some mentions that people reached out via tumblr and reblogged with correct answers for some advice. However, I’m just really hoping that someone also reached out to the administrators of the blogs privately to address these concerns. This could turn into a very sour situation if it’s not done carefully.

    • Coyote

      “I don’t know if my comment posted the first time, so I’m trying again.”

      It’s this function called comment moderation. When a new person or someone who doesn’t have a WP account posts a comment, it gets held in a queue until I approve it. Don’t worry, I approve pretty much everything but outright spam.

      “This could turn into a very sour situation”

      It already is a sour situation because they gave harmful advice. Anyway, I can’t say I share your concerns. Some of these blogs are defunct or on hiatus. Others have had their posts reblogged with criticism, as the links I provided show. Each case here is different: I tried messaging the Placiosexual blog when I first discovered that post of theirs, and I’m not aware of a response. Kiowa has responded to a couple of Hezekiah’s sumbissions, and her responses were pretty crappy and didn’t apologize at all. Clay’s post got such a huge negative response that it now has an edit acknowledging as much. While others, as far as I’m aware, have not been contacted directly. The tumblr messaging system is crap, anyway, and tumblr posts don’t have any built-in comment sections. But aside from the tumblr platform being terrible for discussion, ace advice bloggers, in general, have pretty consistently made it look like they don’t think twice about what they throw down as advice and seem sorely disconnected from the rest of the community, especially 201-level discussions. Arf of Demigray does better, afaik, but that doesn’t absolve the rest. Asexual Advice in particular has repeatedly disregarded criticism.

      The only thing I’m worried about is that this post won’t have any impact at all.

      • FateDefied

        I’m sorry if I came off as rude, and I forgot about moderation with wordpress. I apologize for that. It is certainly not your responsibility to go to every tumblr with issues and talk to them, especially if someone’s already tried (like I’ve seen with a lot of the blogs, especially Asexual Advice, it seems). I really do think what you’re doing is a good thing, and as someone who discovered that they were asexual this year, I’m thankful for posts like these that help with proper advice. I just also work in social media, and I’ve seen stuff like this snowball before because people weren’t contacted.

        I do think this post will have an impact, and I’m seeing it on tumblr. Asexual Advice does look like it’s going to respond to some of the asks it’s received regarding this post according to this: http://asexualadvice.tumblr.com/post/133103725734/for-those-of-you-looking-for-a-response-to-the . Though, we’ll see how well that goes.

        Again, I apologize if it seemed like I was attacking you for starting a witch hunt. That was not my intent. Thank you for doing this post, especially for someone like me who is still new to this asexual thing, and trying to figure everything out. I really do hope you have an excellent day!

    • queenieofaces

      In addition to what Coyote’s already said, I’d like to add that the onus isn’t on Coyote to keep tumblr from attacking people. I’m seeing this as a trend in ace blogging recently–someone makes a post about trends/rhetoric to avoid in ace blogging and uses examples, and the immediate response seems to be “but what if people on tumblr decide to attack the bloggers you’re quoting?” (For another example, see: http://queenieofaces.tumblr.com/post/130270116263/for-your-ace-survivors-series-have-you-thought) It’s not as though anyone’s trying to start a witch hunt here or is encouraging readers to send hate to the quoted bloggers, but somehow, suddenly, the responsibility is on the person bringing up the issue to keep the quoted bloggers safe from tumblr as a whole. I don’t think that’s fair.

      I also think that if talking one-on-one solved these kinds of issues, this all would have been resolved long ago and these kinds of posts wouldn’t need to be made. But talking one-on-one often doesn’t work, reblogging their post to correct them doesn’t work, creating guides (not including quotations) for how not to do this doesn’t work…so sometimes these kinds of posts are needed.

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  • Aqua

    Great work with this! You put a lot of effort into researching each issue, but it’s shocking to see that there are so many issues being perpetuated in advice blogs. I only knew of a few of these, so I can’t add anything to the list. I thought the one about seeing a therapist was the most shocking of all of them, because isn’t it widely known in asexual spaces that a lot of asexuals have had bad experiences with therapists, and it’s still a struggle for many to find accepting and understanding therapists?

    • Coyote

      You would think, right? You would think.

      Anyway, thanks. A lot of these were links I already had on hand — whether from writing criticism posts about them myself or having seen others reblog to comment — but it took alarmingly little effort to just visit a blog, browse for a bit, and find a recent problem post.

  • Sara K.

    My first reaction to finding that you had linked to that post was “Hey, I didn’t even give any advice in that post, how could it be *bad* advice???!!!!”

    Anyway, I am honored that you consider one of my posts to be a good, or at least an improved, example…

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  • Anonymous

    Huh, I think you just summed up why I mostly follow 201 blogs. I just kind of got… bad vibes??? from some of the advice blogs. All the conflicting information in different places made it very hard to realize that, yes, I am ace

    • Coyote

      I had a little of the same problem, too, when I was first sorting things out. Glad you eventually joined us, even if there were obstacles that there shouldn’t have been.

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  • Anonymous

    I mean some of this is genuinely bad advice, but I think it’s important to remember that most ace advice blogs are run by minors who frequently don’t have the resources to give good, educated responses and who are frequently just trying to help even when they’re not well equipped to do so. Not to mention that I see many ace advice blogs that get asks along the lines of ‘what’s my orientation’ and you can’t necessarily blame a bunch of 15 year olds for handling asks like that poorly.

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