Re: Asexual Advice’s Official Response — Filbert

This is a reply to AA’s post here, which was itself a response to my list of bad advice examples.

In my previous post, I answered Kiowa.  In this post, I’m responding to Filbert’s section.  There’s also one for Di published after this one.

The two posts of mine that were called out were both quite recent, however, written within the same week if not the same day. Looking back, they are both less good than I would like.

I’m glad you agree.

Relationship asks that outline potentially abusive situations are hard. It’s a one-sided account, often in 500-1000 characters

This is true.  Anonymous asks don’t allow much opportunity for seeking additional details on a situation — which is why I think it’s so important to consider multiple angles and possibilities in a response, as you acknowledge.

Because of that, a lot of times I will interpret these sorts of asks–or any relationship I observe–in the worst possible way.

I think considering the worst possible way these asks could be interpreted is often very important and should be part of the answer.

Chiefly I regret the ill-considered suggestion of couples therapy–my goal with that suggestion was that they might have a mediated conversation, and I forgot that finding an ace-friendly couples therapist would be difficult.

Something important to remember.

Also, I added this to the post late, but did you see this?

To the second of my answers, I have less justification. I have little experience with therapy and thus should probably avoid giving advice related to it or mental health concerns at all (in fact, I often try to). I answered that with better intentions than information, and should have done more research.

Yes.

I want to unambiguously state that I agree with what Kiowa said above on the question of helping questioning aces find terms.

Well then I want to unambiguously state that I disagree with you too.

we assume they’re asking because they want an answer.

I would assume that as well.

I know there is a lot of nuance and debate behind a lot of these terms–I’ve become more acquainted with it since becoming a mod, and knowing all that makes answering these questions harder.

If I’m interpreting your statement correctly, this post should help with that.

We were all questioning aces once, and while I can’t conjecture about everyone’s experience, I can remember mine. I’d been questioning for so long and concluded I was just miswired so long ago that an open-ended statement like [“if you feel like you belong here, you belong here”] wouldn’t have helped me at all–I needed someone to lay out at least a rough definition that I could analytically compare my experiences to.

When I was questioning, I sought out a rough definition too — and then I stared at it, and stared at it, and remained unsure.  Turned out, what I needed included a definition but more than that, too.  I’ve written about this phenomenon here.

It’s been an introspective few days for me since seeing this post. I’m trying to take it in the best way possible, to interpret its suggestions as if they were made with the best intent.

I appreciate that.

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18 responses to “Re: Asexual Advice’s Official Response — Filbert

  • Filbert

    Hi there, thanks for this response. After reading this, I think we’re actually more in agreement than either of us thought.

    So I’m going to start with the identity policing question, since it sounds like that’s where we have the biggest potential divide. And I’ll start by admitting that when writing my response, I hadn’t read everything you linked to regarding that topic–my bad. I was relying on some assumptions that turned out to be wrong. Specifically, there are some blogs that will respond to the “I experience xyz, am I asexual?” question by saying only “if you think you are, you are” or “only you can decide that” or “what does your heart tell you” without passing on any information. Since that is the main alternative to our method that I’d seen, I incorrectly assumed that that’s the method you were advocating for. (And thus that’s the method against which my response was written.)

    Since then, however, I followed your link trail (thank you for providing that) to these posts by Sciatrix (https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/am-i-asexual-who-can-say/) and nextstepcake (http://nextstepcake.tumblr.com/post/88455081786/nolivingunderstarlight-southpawscopic). And I like the method they describe much better–better than what I’ve been doing, too. My intentions were in line with their goals, but I think their suggested phrasings will better achieve those. I’m going to try to follow their suggestions in the future.

    The other post you linked to (Partnership, Desire, Desirability https://theacetheist.wordpress.com/2015/11/12/partnership-desire-desirability-and-the-sex-as-worth-principle/) is again, all stuff I agree with but not something I articulated in the advice post in question (http://metapianycist.tumblr.com/post/132768010998/my-girlfriend-is-asexual-im-not-we-discussed)–something else I need to try to do in the future.

    I’m curious, though–what would you have said to the asker in that post, regarding body issues stemming from not feeling sexually desired? In particular because, as you said, “it’s not as easy as that little exclamation there if you don’t want to sound like you’re trivializing their anxiety. You can’t expect people to stop feeling bad about it at the drop of a hat, and there’s probably not one little positivity-snippet that can cover all bases.”
    So do you leave it at a positivity snippet and hope that encourages the asker to do additional research? Or do you have a resource you like to link to?

    PS. I’m just testing a bit of HTML so I’ll know if I can use it in a future comment instead of pasting long ugly links >_<

    • Filbert

      Ah, does it need the http?

      Don’t mind me. I am a dork.

    • Coyote

      “I’ll start by admitting that when writing my response, I hadn’t read everything you linked to regarding that topic–my bad.”

      Well that explains a lot.

      “And I like the method they describe much better–better than what I’ve been doing, too. My intentions were in line with their goals, but I think their suggested phrasings will better achieve those. I’m going to try to follow their suggestions in the future.”

      Excellent.

      “So do you leave it at a positivity snippet and hope that encourages the asker to do additional research?”

      Certainly not.

      “Or do you have a resource you like to link to?”

      Well, now I do, since I wrote and published that post. What I would say to them, I figure, would sound a lot like I wrote there.

      ex. “I can understand why that would hurt. If you grew up in a culture like mine, you’ve probably been inundated with messages and narratives that heavily conflate sexual desirability with worth and goodness and treat sex and romance as inevitably intertwined. So, given those ways of thinking, it can intuitively feel like if you’re not sexually desired, that must mean there’s something wrong with you or that you’re not really loved. It’s understandable (and, for me, relateable) that you would have those insecurities. But the reality is that you are good enough, and you body is good enough, regardless of whether any one individual desires sex with you or not. It may be very difficult to disentangle yourself from those beliefs, but know this, at least: you deserve to be free of them.”

      Something like that.

      And yes, you can use most basic HTML tags here.

  • Sciatrix

    What gets me is that those blog posts–both mine and Next Step Cake’s–were written in response to a very similar discussion about the advice that ace advice blogs gave and about the importance of advice bloggers reading and paying attention to larger discussions in the community. Like, how can you give nuanced advice if you aren’t paying attention to other complexities that people are forging? Especially given that Ace Advice was at the center of that particular controversy and those posts were in fact direct comments on Ace Advice’s behavior as an advice blog (although it wasn’t the only offender). Part of me is astonished that someone who’s speaking for an organizational group, which Ace Advice is, isn’t familiar with the history of that organization in this way.

    If you’re interested in reading more, Queenie has helpfully composed linkspams about this topic here and here, and I kicked off a huge discussion about it last year (which is what spawned the post you linked). I gotta say, the general effect of your comment is to make me feel frustrated and like none of that had any effect on the advice giving community, which is not what I think you intended.

    • Filbert

      It’s not what I intended, but I understand your frustration. At the time those discussions were happening, I wasn’t a mod and I wasn’t following the broader ace community closely enough to notice the discussions on my own. As a new mod, we were evaluated on some common sample questions and I think our early answers were reviewed by senior mods, but I would’ve liked to have had more of an ~advice primer~ compiling some of the discourse we’ve been talking about here–while I made some effort to seek out information on my own, I clearly didn’t find all of it. I think that’s something our blog could definitely work on in the future, so the senior mods could pass on some of the benefit of their and the community’s experience and knowledge. Otherwise we get into situations like this, retreading steps instead of moving forward.

      I am very interested in reading more; thank you for those links. I’m going to work on saving and organizing all these posts in a way that’s easy for me to refer or link to when giving advice in the future.

      • Coyote

        On that note, I forgot to ask you to do this, but are you going to talk to Kiowa about adopting that method we talked about (re: “Am I asexual?” asks) as a policy for the blog?

      • Sciatrix

        Right, I agree completely! That’s why providing links all the time is important–not just in discussions like this, but it’s also a helpful thing to do with questioning people so that you give them access to ideas and concepts that might be helpful to them as they try to forge their own identities. Labels don’t mean too much without a context to use them, you know?

        That said, I really do think that not informing you guys of this when you took on a mod position speaks to a deeper structural problem with the way that the Asexual Advice team integrates newer members. In my own group blog, we actually send new members a formal document with exactly that sort of information in it–a primer to the blog’s philosophy, the goals the Agenda has for the content it creates, and a list of our moderation rules and our procedures. That last includes a formal methodology for adding new members, what we intend to do about contributors who don’t contribute, moderation guidelines, and formal philosophy on guest posts. The document also involves tasks and lists who is assigned to those tasks, style guidelines for categorizing posts written for the Agenda, and additional guidelines to help new posters get moving. It has a small note on history and a variety of potential topics to help people brainstorm writing ideas.

        (It actually currently needs updating on a few very minor points, but that’s the nice thing about revising it any time we add a blogger to the team.) What this lets us do is create an institutional memory that lasts longer than any single member. It also lets new members get a feel for what the blog is and how it runs behind the scenes. Most of it has been slowly written by Siggy as he goes along, and I don’t think it was that onerous to create to start with. Now it’s invaluable.

        I would recommend that any long-running asexual activism group, or any group project, create these things. Creating structure for new members of an organization is crucial to integrating new members and setting them up as productive contributors to the organization’s goal. Otherwise, new members are at the mercy of existing ones when it comes to training, and without structure they may develop huge cracks in their knowledge. Pre-written structure is also vital for a variety of other tasks and will seriously make the time and energy you invest into your activism much more effective.

        For example, an ace advice blog should have a ‘library’ of useful links for assorted problems so that contributors can quickly pull up relevant links to send questioners to as they become relevant. If you’re completely lost and looking for a place to start, Queenie has helpfully compiled a variety of linkspams arranged by topic. There’s also the Carnival of Aces. However, I wouldn’t recommend just creating a link to these resources. If I was trying to handle a problem like this, I would think of topics that frequently come up and I would compile an annotated personal list of posts which handle those topics well and notes about when to use them. Then when I was trying to write responses, I would thumb through that annotated list and grab posts as they come up and link to them in those responses. That way, the people whose questions I answered have other things they can read and think about which are composed with more thought and emotional energy than I can spare for any individual questioner at a time.

        Prescriptivism is at heart a heuristic designed to make it easier to shunt people down categories of thought; we use it to create easy lines around a problem. In order to make prescriptivism less tempting, it’s a good idea to have many descriptivist resources to point people at. As someone who is involved with creating those resources, it’s very frustrating to see that work largely ignored by the people who are trying to serve as a gateway into the ace community. Besides, answering questions from scratch every single time is an astonishingly inefficient use of your resources and energy. Creating a series of documents designed to help make writing thoughtful responses take little work for you in the moment will really improve the quality problems that Coyote has helpfully detailed here. A little work ahead of time really and truly will save you vast amounts of energy in the long run and make the work that you are trying to do genuinely effective.

        • Coyote

          (sidenote: I had no idea the Asexual Agenda had all that going on in the background! No wonder it’s the monument that it is.)

        • Filbert

          Yes! Thank you for this really detailed response. I’d like to continue this conversation but I don’t have time tonight to give my response the attention I’d like. I’ll be back tomorrow or Wednesdy–just don’t want you to think I’m ignoring you!

        • queenieofaces

          *hugs this comment*

        • Filbert

          It’s now been much longer than the “tomorrow or Wednesday” I promised–things have been busy. Also, despite having an extra week to think about this comment, I don’t have much more to say in response. I’m still at the O_O stage. :-) Thank you for the level of detail you put into explaining your document; that will provide a good starting point for putting together one of our own. I agree with you that Asexual Advice would definitely benefit from a guide like that and I hope we can devote the resources to developing one–payoff should be almost immediate if we can put in some upfront time.

          • Coyote

            While you’re at it, you can tell Kiowa our disagreement isn’t resolved, as far as I’m concerned.

          • Filbert

            I think you can tell Kiowa that yourself. :-) I appreciate that you want to keep the conversation going, but I’m not your messenger.

          • Coyote

            True. I’m just annoyed that she has time to keep answering asks but not time for those second chances she was exalting the importance of. And I’d rather not have to keep knocking on y’all’s door by way of your submit button, but I suppose beggars can’t be choosers…

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