Kiowa and Prescriptivism: A Recap

June 2014: In a discussion about ace advice blogs and identity policing, Kiowa (nolivingunderstarlight) responded to the fact that some of her own advice was cited as part of the problem.  She renounced her specific post but defended her general practices with the belief that it’s okay to say whether someone is “probably” asexual.  Sennkestra/Cleander wrote back with an in-depth counterargument.  I know of no response to that.

October 2015: In response to an ask about apothisexual, Kiowa wrote, “We do not advocate any sexuality terms that do not deal exclusively in feelings of sexual attraction.”  When Hezekiah confronted her about this by making an analogy to LGB identities, Kiowa replied by identity-policing aces and LGB people.  This got responses from Hezekiah, Sennkestra, Siggy, and me.  I know of no response to those.

That same week, Kiowa also identity-policed another ace advice blogger.

November 2015: In reaction to my post Examples of Bad Ace Advice, Kiowa and two other AA mods wrote an official response, in which she apologized for her pre-2015 identity-policing and apologized for what she said to Arf, but also criticized my post on multiple points and argued that her current approach is not prescriptivist.

The next day, she commented on my reply to ask how I would ask her to do things differently and told me that what I wrote was unkind, ignoring my rebuttals to her previous (more concrete) criticisms of my post.  Since her question had already been answered in multiple places, I asked her if she’d read one of the main links I’d already provided in the original post.  Siggy and Hezekiah stepped in as well.

Addressing 0% of the points we’d made and the questions we’d asked of her, Kiowa replied, “I’m honestly ready to let this one lie.”

That was November 17th.  I haven’t heard from her since.

She’s still had time to answer asks on Asexual Advice, though.  In a post published on November 24th, she upheld an ahistorical understanding of “the” definition of asexuality, possibly in relation to this discussion.

As far as I’m concerned, we’re still not on the same page.

As a mod of a popular and prominent ace advice blog, Kiowa occupies a position of authority.  That authority comes with power and responsibility.  I would like for her to be accountable to the rest of the community in how she handles that responsibility and to follow Arf’s ideals for ace advice blogs as gateways to the community.

To create a gateway to the community, one necessarily has to be engaged with that community.

Kiowa’s record of engagement, in general, from the things I’ve seen, is to respond once to criticisms delivered to her doorstep and to rarely continue the conversation much further than that, even when that means ignoring rebuttals.

Obviously, the Tumblr format is ill-suited to this matter, since, as has been noted before, Asexual Advice gets flooded with too many notifications to sort through.  If AA had an email address that I was aware of, I would use that.  If AA had a comment section that didn’t require a Tumblr account, I would use that.  To continue the conversation that is important to me, I don’t have many options at my disposal.  So here I am, writing this post, pointing out the timeline of what has happened.

Not that I expect her to to respond to every little thing, but these concerns have been raised about her repeatedly, as an ongoing issue.

I want to know why she isn’t doing more to resolve it.

Update: if you’re following this issue, here’s the latest.

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18 responses to “Kiowa and Prescriptivism: A Recap

  • Libris

    Just to point out – the Asexual Advice blog seems to currently be running on a nine- or ten-day-long queue, so the ask published on the 24th was probably written before she commented here in real time on the 17th. (Not to comment on anything else, just pointing out because that’s information you probably don’t have as easy access to.)

    • Coyote

      I do keep forgetting about that kind of thing.

      …Well, I can’t be sure when it was written, then, only that that’s when it was published, so that’s the only date I can confidently use, but I see your point.

      I guess she didn’t think it was worth going back and changing before it published?

  • Siggy

    Since one of the topics of discussion was whether the bad advice linkspam constituted a call-out, I will opine that a linkspam that follows a single person’s responses or lack thereof is significantly more call-out-like. For better or for worse.

    • Coyote

      Oh yes, I’ve moved into the territory of call-out now. Since she wants to “let it lie” and I don’t.

      • Jax

        Wait. Okay, hold on. So, one of the biggest issues this person seemed to take with your original post was feeling like they were being personally attacked… so in order to try and get your point across you decided to deliberately make a post much more along those lines? I don’t quite follow the logic behind that.

        I understand wanting to hold them accountable to the advice they give and see it improve, but can I ask why you think that doing something that is going to put them more emotionally on guard is going to somehow make them MORE receptive to what you’re saying? If anything, don’t you think it’s just going to make them even more likely to discredit what you’re saying?

        I don’t know what the right answer is, if they aren’t responding well to criticism raised towards them in the past (I just recently stumbled across this whole discussion via tumblr), but making deliberate statements saying that you’re basically ignoring something they’ve expressed as a reason for their defensiveness doesn’t seem like the best way to get through to them. So I guess I’m just curious what you’re hoping to actually accomplish with this? Especially if you do start asking people to circulate this more publically, that

        • Coyote

          “so in order to try and get your point across you decided to deliberately make a post much more along those lines?”

          I wouldn’t say it’s “to get my point across” because you can’t get your point across to someone who isn’t there to listen in the first place.

          “can I ask why you think that doing something that is going to put them more emotionally on guard is going to somehow make them MORE receptive to what you’re saying?”

          I’m not necessarily assuming it’ll make her more receptive. Who knows? I’m not good at predicting people’s behavior, least of all hers. Maybe it’ll just mildly tick her off, for all I know. But the post isn’t just for her.

          “If anything, don’t you think it’s just going to make them even more likely to discredit what you’re saying?”

          I see that you’re concerned. Personally, I feel that I have nothing to lose.

          “but making deliberate statements saying that you’re basically ignoring something they’ve expressed as a reason for their defensiveness doesn’t seem like the best way to get through to them.”

          *shrug* Maybe it’s not. What would you prefer?

          “So I guess I’m just curious what you’re hoping to actually accomplish with this?”

          What, best case scenario? Or all case scenarios?

          (it looks like part of your comment got cut off — what were you going to say?)

          • Jax

            Ugh, sorry for the cutoff – I copied and pasted from my notes app because my mobile browser was being wonky and must not have gotten the whole comment. “Especially if you do start asking people to circulate this more publically, that seems almost like harassing them, and that can have really harmful effects.”

            I guess I just would have tried to go about it more privately since they seemed really bothered by the very public approach… I know there were some comments I think on this post? (I’ve lost track, the problem with reading everything in one sitting) about the fact that the main blog doesn’t have an email address and that tumblr is a bad way to try and communicate and have a conversation, but it seems like you know their personal URL, so why not try to reach out to them there? Even just maybe approaching them again on the main blog and saying “hey, I know you said you wanted to let this lay but I’ve still got some concerns, is there a better way I can reach you to talk about this privately?”

            I am concerned, especially because it just feels like this went from being about trying to make a difference in the community for the better to a personal attack and… a lot of what you just said kind of reinforces that perception? At least for me? And I’m confused as to why you say that this post isn’t for them, but then say that you’re going to start asking people to circulate the post if you don’t get a response soon. Why?

            I don’t know. Maybe you don’t have anything to lose here, but it’s disappointing to go from a discussion of how to make the community a better place into seeing something like this, because I guess I really don’t understand the point of it then. If it was just a need to vent and get your own feelings out about someone, I mean, it’s your personal blog and your personal feelings and that’s valid, but that doesn’t seem like the case? Especially since you never did say what the point of this is, if not to try and educate them further. What IS the best case scenario? Or your actual expectation of what it will accomplish?

          • Coyote

            “I guess I just would have tried to go about it more privately”

            It sure would be great if there were some avenue for me to do that… like, say, if AA put up a public email address… that thing I already suggested that they do… Gosh, that sure would be a good thing, I agree.

            “and that tumblr is a bad way to try and communicate and have a conversation, but it seems like you know their personal URL, so why not try to reach out to them there?”

            You answered your question there. Because tumblr is a bad way to try and communicate and have a conversation this unwieldy. If she has an email address posted on there somewhere and I missed it, please let me know.

            “Even just maybe approaching them again on the main blog and saying ‘hey, I know you said you wanted to let this lay but I’ve still got some concerns, is there a better way I can reach you to talk about this privately?'”

            She already knows that and she ditched the conversation anyway.

            “I am concerned, especially because it just feels like this went from being about trying to make a difference in the community for the better to a personal attack and… a lot of what you just said kind of reinforces that perception?”

            Sometimes making a difference in the community means taking people to task. Call it a personal attack if you want, I guess, but please note that my criticisms were about a pattern of cited specific behavior and an ideological disagreement, not… random name-calling or anything like that. Presumably you agree it’s okay to confront people about specific behaviors and ideological disagreements, yes?

            “And I’m confused as to why you say that this post isn’t for them”

            Isn’t *just* for her. Sorry, may have made a typo. The word “just” was supposed to be in there. Anyway, to answer the question you implied but didn’t ask, it’s for the people who might otherwise be unaware that she pulls this sort of thing — to warn them.

            “but then say that you’re going to start asking people to circulate the post if you don’t get a response soon. Why?”

            Well, I don’t see any reason to press the matter that way if she gets back into dialogue with me, obviously. Especially if some or any part of it gets resolved. I wouldn’t want to spread outdated or incomplete information.

            “Especially since you never did say what the point of this is,”

            It’s a recap. I’m… sorry I can’t give you a more complex answer than that, I’m very literal-minded, I’m not trying to be flippant with you.

            “What IS the best case scenario? Or your actual expectation of what it will accomplish?”

            Best best case scenario? Kiowa starts valuing community engagement, stops with this weird arbitrary notion that 201 discussions shouldn’t influence 101 education, and we both get on the same page. Second best case scenario, where she does nothing/stays the same? Lots of people are warned to stop trusting her with these matters. Middle-of-the-road scenario? She gets back in contact with me, but just to fuss at me for being rude, and doesn’t address the substance of the disagreements she has with me and many others who do more in-depth ace blogging. Most likely? I never hear from her, not many people hear of this exchange, and nothing changes, but at least now I have something to link if I ever need to give someone a summary.

  • Sennkestra

    Well, someone at least has updated the FAQ – it still has some of the issues we’ve been discussing, but overall it’s still a big improvement over the old version, and a good first step. I have no idea who was responsible for those updates, but it’s tentatively a hopeful sign for the Asexual Advice Blog as a general institution – hopefully whoever it was might be open to establishing some kind of pathway for further communication as well. (Because the best way to avoid public callouts? is to provide a reliable route for private conflict resolution).

    ( http://asexualadvice.tumblr.com/faq )

    To any Ace Advice mods reading this: seriously, having an email contact would be awesome – I say this both as a reader who sometimes has feedback I’d like to submit sometimes in a better way, and as a blogger who has found having a linked email incredibly useful in terms of handling feedback. Google groups also provide an easy way to set up forwarding to all the mods.

    • Coyote

      I noticed earlier that the flowchart image has changed… but it still pretty much features the same problem. So, half-yay, I guess?

      “Because the best way to avoid public callouts? is to provide a reliable route for private conflict resolution”

      *circles this in red*

      • Sennkestra

        Yeah, it mostly fixes the complete lack of acknowledgement for grey-asexuality, which is great, and switches from definite to “probably”, which is…better, though not ideal yet. So yeah, it could still use some more improvements, but this provides a good start.

        I think they may also have provided a bit more utility-model type language at the beginning, but I don’t have the original open so I’m not sure. I’d still like to see more emphasis of that after the chart as well though. (P.s. AA mods: if you ever want help with figuring out the specifics of what we are trying to recommend, I and probably others would happily provide word for word suggestions for text updates)

        • Mark

          As someone who has followed the AA blog for quite a while now, I can tell you that they would welcome specific recommendations like that. Nearly every time an issue is addressed, called out, or criticized on the blog itself, they ask for people to go beyond mere criticism and tell them how they can do better. Unfortunately, I have very rarely ever seen the sort of follow through that would be most useful to them – specific details on ways a post could have been better phrased, and why that specific phrasing is better. Mind you, this can seem extremely detailed – but when discussing the merit of specific word choice, extreme attention to detail and rational really is needed.

  • Mark

    Hi Coyote. I’ll be really straight forward in my wording since I know that tone doesn’t always translate well through text.
    With regards to the original “Examples of Bad Ace Advice” post – no, I did not click through all of the links for a few reasons.
    1. I am not a mod on that blog, so the post was not about me.
    2. That post has some serious accessibility issues. It wasn’t until reading the responses and consequential discussions that I even knew that there were suggested models present in the original text.
    2.a. A more accessible format would have included the examples of good and bad advice, and the suggestions, within the text of the post. Having numerous links to follow and tabs to open makes a post less accessible, or flat out inaccessible to someone like me.
    2.b. The groupings, bullet points, and subject headers of the “Examples of Bad Ace Advice” post were accessibility positives – without them I would have only been able to get through maybe the first half of the first sentence.

    That being said, I believe a more convincing format of constructive criticism, for them, would have been a step or two more specific. Talking about the phrasing of the exact posts you object to, and why that exact phrasing is problematic, and how exactly you believe it could be better phrased, in that specific instance, is something that they should be able to understand much more quickly, from what I know. (Again, I’m not a mod, but I have followed them for quite some time, and I have been keeping up with this blog as well.)

    • Coyote

      “A more accessible format would have included the examples of good and bad advice, and the suggestions, within the text of the post. Having numerous links to follow and tabs to open makes a post less accessible, or flat out inaccessible to someone like me.”

      Hm. I see, I think. Well, since most of the recommendation posts were older, and since that was mainly just supposed to be a post about examples of bad ace advice, I was more focused on just making a list, at the time, and threw in the links mostly in case someone was confused and wanted to seek clarification.

      On the matter of specific suggestions, if you’re curious, here are some.

      From Sennkestra/Cleander’s reblog comment:

      “Asexuality is typically defined as lack of sexual attraction – that is, the lack of sexual interest in any specific person, rather than lack of interest in sex itself. It’s quite possible to experience sexual attraction but simply have no desire to actually engage in sex at the moment – it’s more about who you would be interested in sexual activity with if or when you’re in the mood for sexual activity. On the other hand, there are some asexual people who do find erotic imagery like porn arousing – they just don’t experience any kind of attraction to any of the individuals; it’s all about the acts and the general tone.

      Of course, only you really know yourself well enough to know for sure whether you are asexual or not. In the end, do you feel like “asexual” fits better than any other label? If so, then use it! Or, on the other hand, if you don’t really feel like “asexual” describes you, then don’t use it! Only you can be the judge of your own sexual orientation.”

      From Elizabeth’s post Permission:

      “If you’re to the point of actually questioning whether or not you could be asexual, then you probably already know the definition. In case there’s anyone reading along who doesn’t, though, it’s a person who lacks sexual attraction. If you’re not really sure what sexual attraction even means, then chances are, you haven’t personally felt it. I would define it as ‘a visceral desire to have sex with someone based generally on their looks, voice, mannerisms, or personality traits.’

      Does that fit you? I don’t know, and there’s no way that I can possibly know. We are talking about internal experiences here, and there is no reliable way to measure that from the outside. It is totally up to you to decide.

      And I hereby grant you permission to do it, even if you might be wrong.”

      From Hezekiah’s reblog comment:

      “Here are several differing definitions that different asexual people use. Those aren’t the only definitions that asexual people use, either. What does asexual mean to you when you consider the idea of being asexual? Would it help you understand your sexuality to describe yourself as asexual?”

      And there’s also this thing I wrote:

      “When a questioning person comes to you and asks ‘am I asexual?’ it’s okay to — and maybe even better to — look beyond the question. Instead of trying to provide them with criteria to assess themselves by, or worse, giving an outright yes/no answer, you can ask yourself:

      Why are they asking me this? Is this someone who has been thinking about identifying as asexual and is on the fence about it? Have they given their reasons for being on the fence about it? Do they think I’m the Psychic Expert On Who is What? Do they know I’m not and will never be a psychic expert? Could they be someone who already identifies as asexual and is testing the waters to see if they’ll be welcome in the community?

      I think pondering these questions can help lead you to a more helpful and more responsible answer.”

      • Mark

        First off, I want to say thank you for providing me with such a clear and accessible response. I can personally see the differences now between those posts, and the ones that Kiowa writes.
        From what I see, the current prefered response to a questioning asexual, writing in to an asexual advice blog, involves casting a degree of doubt on the perceived authority of the advice giver, and using phrasing that works to place that authority in the hands of the individual who wrote in.
        However, for as much as I personally understand this now, I do not know if this would communicate it to the AA mods. From what they have said on their blog in the past, these examples above are a step better than what they usually receive, with regards to criticism. However, they may need a specific detailing of posts that they have made, and how you believe those specific posts from their blog, should have been written. Again, I’m not them, this is just from my observations. All I can do is make a suggestion here, but thank you for hearing me out on this.

        P.S. I want to reiterate that I really appreciate the examples you provided above, and their formatting. I have been personally curious about a lot of this as I have been reading along, and seeing them written out like this really helped me.

      • Elizabeth

        Now that you mention it, I realized I need to clarify that passage from my post a little bit. Since working with RFAS, I realized that “lack” is not as clear as it should be, since often people interpret it as a word that refers to absolutely-zero, when to me it tends to read as “little or no”/a relative term.

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