Lirael1

How to Be an Asexual Ally

13 posts in this topic

In continuing to plan my workshop on asexuality, I thought of some pamphlets I've seen in other sexual orientation/gender identity workshops on how to be an ally to X orientation. This one on how to be a trans ally is a good example. I think it'd be really cool to have a handout at my workshop on how to be an asexual ally.

I've written a draft version, and wanted to post it here for feedback. What do you guys think? Anything you disagree with? Anything you'd like to see on this list that isn't there?

N.B. My goal in this pamphlet is not to debunk myths about asexuality. I think that has the potential to come off as very defensive, and I'm looking to take a more positive angle in this document. So, I'm not looking for "this is what we're not" or "this is what you shouldn't say to us," but rather "here are some ways to be sensitive to our orientations when interacting with us, and some ways you can offer us your support."

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How to Be an Asexual Ally

- Educate yourself and others about asexuality.

- Speak up if you hear an asexual being ridiculed or harassed for their orientation.

- Explicitly include asexuality and its related identities in sexual orientation-focused groups, workshops, discussions, etc.

- Don't automatically assume that everyone you meet is sexual, even if they seem perfectly comfortable talking or writing about sex.

- Respect a person's self-identity and refer to them by whatever labels (or lack thereof) they apply to themselves.

- Don't ask highly personal questions about a person's sexual feelings or experiences, unless you are close enough to the person that you know such questions would be acceptable.

- Don't tokenize an asexual person by expecting them to be the spokesperson for all things asexual.

- Recognize that asexuals may have varying degrees of comfort with discussions of sex; some asexuals may be very uncomfortable with it, others may be completely fine with it and may even enjoy flirting or making sexual jokes just for fun. If you're not sure where someone's boundaries are, ask them.

- Correct misconceptions about asexuality if you hear someone expressing them.

- Don't assume anything about an asexual's romantic orientation, or about their past or present sexual experiences (or lack thereof).

- Cultivate a vision of sex-positivity in which not wanting sex is just as valid and affirming as wanting it.

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That looks pretty good!

- Don't assume anything about an asexual's romantic orientation, or about their past or present sexual experiences (or lack thereof).

You might want to add something about not making assumptions about an asexual's past in general. (Some people seem to assume that all asexuals are people who've been made that way by some sort of trauma.)

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I like it! I hope everyone you educate loves it as much as I do!

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I really like this! My one suggestion is under "educate yourself", it might be helpful to tell people how to educate themselves, like where to find the information and if there's space, some of the basics they might need to know.

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Overal, I think it looks really good. In terms of specific feedback, I'd second Ily's comment about giving information on how to educate yourself.

- Don't ask highly personal questions about a person's sexual feelings or experiences, unless you are close enough to the person that you know such questions would be acceptable.

You should probably specifically mention not to ask "Do you masturbate?"

- Cultivate a vision of sex-positivity in which not wanting sex is just as valid and affirming as wanting it.

Because of the large variation in and outside of the asexual community towards the notion of "sex positive" I would avoid that term (and its cognates.) Perhaps something like "sexual diversity" would be good.

I'm not sure what to say about the suggestion about abuse. I'm actually inclined to think that asexuality should take the approach of challenging the "every problem under the sun is caused by childhood sexual abuse" dogma, rather than accepting it and just saying that our thing isn't caused by it. (For those who are interested in this point, there is an interesting discussion of the Rind et al. study, , which attempted to empirically test the matter, found here. And don't even get me started on the "repressed memory" people...)

Edit: Just so that people don't attack me for saying that sexually abusing children is okay (which I did not say), what I am questioning is the idea that it somehow uniquely permanently scars the individual (i.e. in a way that other negative experiences do not.)

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I'm not sure what to say about the suggestion about abuse. I'm actually inclined to think that asexuality should take the approach of challenging the "every problem under the sun is caused by childhood sexual abuse" dogma, rather than accepting it and just saying that our thing isn't caused by it.

I think that's my post you're referring to. Just to be clear, I was not suggesting that we accept such pop-psyche notions while denying their applicability to asexuality: I was only suggesting that the pamphlet say something about not making general assumptions about someone's past on the basis of their asexuality. For this I don't think there's any need to mention something like the 'every problem under the sun is caused by childhood sexual abuse dogma' by name at all, whether to challenge its acceptance or not; my reference to 'trauma' was only meant to explain my own thoughts on why the pamphlet should mention something about not making assumptions about an asexual's past, not as something itself to be included in the pamphlet.

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I'm not sure what to say about the suggestion about abuse. I'm actually inclined to think that asexuality should take the approach of challenging the "every problem under the sun is caused by childhood sexual abuse" dogma, rather than accepting it and just saying that our thing isn't caused by it.

I think that's my post you're referring to. Just to be clear, I was not suggesting that we accept such pop-psyche notions while denying their applicability to asexuality: I was only suggesting that the pamphlet say something about not making general assumptions about someone's past on the basis of their asexuality. For this I don't think there's any need to mention something like the 'every problem under the sun is caused by childhood sexual abuse dogma' by name at all, whether to challenge its acceptance or not; my reference to 'trauma' was only meant to explain my own thoughts on why the pamphlet should mention something about not making assumptions about an asexual's past, not as something itself to be included in the pamphlet.

More than anything else, I was just sort of thinking out loud about something that's been going around in my head for a while now. A lot of people accept (uncritically) certain ideas about childhood sexual abuse (things that, as I understand it, arose in the 70's without any empirical evidence), and this is precisely the reason why we would want to tell people not to assume that it must be caused by sexual trauma. It seems that the easy way to respond is simply to say address the matter with regard to asexuality, but generally leave the underlying foundation unchallenged. Yet part of me wonders if the asexual community is in a particularly good position to challenge the underlying ideology.

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- Don't ask highly personal questions about a person's sexual feelings or experiences, unless you are close enough to the person that you know such questions would be acceptable.

You should probably specifically mention not to ask "Do you masturbate?"

Yeah...I would second that idea.

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- Don't assume anything about an asexual's romantic orientation, or about their past or present sexual experiences (or lack thereof).

You might want to add something about not making assumptions about an asexual's past in general. (Some people seem to assume that all asexuals are people who've been made that way by some sort of trauma.)

Good call. I might make that into its own bullet point, actually. I'll have to do some more thinking about how I want to word it - not sure if I should give examples of specific things you shouldn't assume or just make a broad "don't make assumptions" statement.

Overal, I think it looks really good. In terms of specific feedback, I'd second Ily's comment about giving information on how to educate yourself.

I wondered whether or not it was necessary include a link to AVEN under that bullet, since I'll be handing out a separate list of resources at my workshop. But I guess if I'm going to use this pamphlet for other things (which might happen), it might be useful to put that in. Thanks.

- Cultivate a vision of sex-positivity in which not wanting sex is just as valid and affirming as wanting it.

Because of the large variation in and outside of the asexual community towards the notion of "sex positive" I would avoid that term (and its cognates.) Perhaps something like "sexual diversity" would be good.

My use of that term is very deliberate and is directed specifically at the community to which I'm teaching this workshop. Sex-positivity is a big thing in the community, but I've found that discussions of it often don't take asexuality into account. I might change the wording in the future if I take this pamphlet outside this particular community. (And "sexual diversity" is a good alternative wording; thanks for that.)

- Don't ask highly personal questions about a person's sexual feelings or experiences, unless you are close enough to the person that you know such questions would be acceptable.

You should probably specifically mention not to ask "Do you masturbate?"

Yeah...I would second that idea.

Why that question in particular?

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Why that question in particular?

Because it seems to be very common, and many find it very annoying/inappropriate.

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I actually have a sort of vague post draft in the works on how to respond politely if someone comes out as asexual to you, but it's all malformed and I'd be quite pleased if someone else did it so I didn't have to. Ahem.

Anyway, mine as it stands is basically a list of responses which it is generally considered impolite to come up with when an asexual comes out and why. (I said it was unfinished.) Maybe a section of common "oh please don't go here" responses with explanations might be good to add?

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Anyway, mine as it stands is basically a list of responses which it is generally considered impolite to come up with when an asexual comes out and why. (I said it was unfinished.) Maybe a section of common "oh please don't go here" responses with explanations might be good to add?

One of my own concerns is how to balance this with the stated goal of not coming off as defensive. I'm not saying it's impossible--I think that mentioning the masturbation question in particular is a good idea. Still, including too many could be problematic.

Edit: In the (in my opinion, very good) piece on how to be a trans ally linked in the op, there are three specific questions that people are told not to ask:

Don’t ask a trans person what their “real name” is.

Don’t ask about a trans person’s genitals or surgical status.

Don’t ask a trans person how they have sex.

All of these are, I assume, fairly common questions that people ask trans people (presumably, because curiosity trumps appropriateness, and the "difference" of the other person causes people to put considerations of appropriateness on hold sometimes), and all three are very personal questions that a lot of people would not be comfortable talking about. (Well, the "real" name question is somewhat different than the other two.)

Likewise, with asexuality, I think it's a good idea to tell people not to ask specific questions if those questions are particularly common and inappropriate (e.g. the one about masturbation). That said, I think that the number of specific question people are told not to ask shouldn't exceed three. Also, besides the one about masturbation, there aren't any that stand out to me as equally important to mention.

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- Don't ask highly personal questions about a person's sexual feelings or experiences, unless you are close enough to the person that you know such questions would be acceptable.

You should probably specifically mention not to ask "Do you masturbate?"

Yeah...I would second that idea.

I third this, though I'd word it as something like, "It is considered rude to ask an asexual person about their masturbation habits."

I'm interested in seeing it when you're done!

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