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poindexter

Is AVEN sending us mixed-messages?

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poindexter

With all the usual talk about definitions/terminology and the over-saturation of such, I thought I'd share something I've wondered about for a while now.

Namely, that AVEN sends us a rather mixed-message by putting a definition at the top of the page.

First, I might be completely wrong, in which case ignore the thread altogether, but it's my impression that AVEN was created to follow David Jay's collective identity model.

This model puts forth the idea that "an asexual person is anyone who uses the term "asexual" to describe themselves."

The site reinforces this notion in the "judgements of users" clause in the ToS, which states that "Making judgements about other users, especially about the validity of their asexuality, is strongly discouraged. We are here to figure ourselves out, not put each other in boxes."

As a result, if try to tell someone who experiences sexual attraction, yet insists that they are indeed asexual, that they aren't asexual, that is grounds for some form of disciplinary action. We are not supposed to tell someone how they should identify because it goes against the model. If I create my own definition of asexuality or sexual attraction, and judge others against that, I'd be in even more trouble.

However, perhaps for practical reasons (there is a "V" and "E" of AVEN, after all), there is a definition at the top of the page. By it's nature, this implies that anyone who falls inside this definition is asexual, and anyone outside that is not. As such, the definition does not follow the collective identity model. We feel encouraged, by it's mere existence, to enter discussions about having a "clearer" definition, so we can more easily identify who is and isn't asexual, and get the "official" definition changed. Oft-times as a result of these discussions, the collective identity model is left in the dust and a lot of people's feelings are hurt, and identities brought into question. Whether you agree or not with that method, it seems to go against the grain of what AVEN originally stood for, or at least that's how it seems in my mind.

I'm not saying I disagree with either the collective identity model or the definition - I think there are merits to both ideas, but I think there is a certain contradiction going on when we look to both at the same time for guidance/understanding.

So a few questions I'll ask to anyone who can answer -

1) Am I rambling or does anyone else feel the same way?

2) If the collective identity model is a thing - and I could be wrong - why does AVEN have a definition at the top of the page? Who decided it should be there and what was their reasoning behind it?

3) Is the collective identity model still something we as a community identify with, or is it completely out-dated, and if so, should the ToS reflect this change?

4) How do we, as a site, reconcile the desire for openness and acceptance with the desire for a clear definition?

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Serran

There is certainly a mixed goal of the site. If we want visibility and education as an orientation, then asexual has to have a clear definition... not just anyone who says they are asexual. However, the site pushes 100% acceptance by rules of the community and forums. And people find the very idea of a definition, whatever it may be, insulting and excluding if they do not fit the proposed or official definitions. Not sure there is a solution though, as the site wants to do both community (which can't identity police while offering support) and education/visibility.

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Robin L

Well, things change. DJ's model isnot the only model for asexuality.

AVEN's definition on the banner exists to give people an idea of what asexuality is. For people new to asexuality, seeing that "an asexual is someone who is asexual" is really not a useful indicator for self-identification or just understanding. If we want a reasonable vis/ed, then we'll need a definition as well.

Despite the clause, it is my impression that the admod team does not take action on views of asexuality that are blatantly wrong, like asexuality = celibacy or something. This is better clarified by the team as a whole, though.

The ToS clause shouldn't be removed, even if the collective identity model is outdated. There are still blatant cases of identity policing that fall under the clause.

Currently, AVEN's way of doing things is to state that some people may have different definitions of asexuality that vary from the official definition. This is, however, no substitute for actually having the definition up there.

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Philip027

I am a little too braindead to address all of your questions, but I will say this:

"an asexual person is anyone who uses the term "asexual" to describe themselves."


Vehemently disagree with that notion. Things have definitions, and that's not how definitions work -- otherwise I must put forth that I identify as Supreme God Master of All Time and insist that you all address me as such. Peons.

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poindexter

ell, things change. DJ's model isnot the only model for asexuality.

No, but it seems like the site is rooted in that one, considering that it was made with that in mind, and there is still something of a taboo, or at least a tension, surrounding the questioning/criticising of other's identities.

And I'm really NOT asking for the ToS clause to be removed, so please don't think that XD... Maybe more clearly outlined.. Idk.

I understand that AVEN needs the definition for education and visibility, I'm just wondering, like Serran mentioned, how we're supposed to do that while simultaenously being fully supportive of everyone.

Afterall, if we want to change the definition to better reflect what asexuality is, there's uproar because people naturally feel like they're being cut off. You can say that "some people have definitions of asexuality that vary from the official definition", but I think we're underestimating the importance of the official definition in people's minds as a rule against which we measure who's "in" and who's "out". It's not just a tool for education and visibility.

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Float On

I like the dual definition model.


in asexual discourse, the word ‘asexual’ really has two related, but conceptually distinct, meanings. The first is a sexual orientation. An asexual is a person who experiences little or no sexual attraction. The second definition is an identity based on that sexual orientation: An asexual is someone who experiences little or no sexual attraction and calls themself asexual. This identity is based on not only experiencing little or no sexual attraction, but on the effects of that within the cultural contexts in which people live.

This model uses the phrase “a person who experiences little or no sexual attraction” because the boundary between sexual and asexual is blurry and there is no clear line to draw between them. The question of where to draw the line is something each person decides for themself, so self-identification answers the question of who is and who isn’t asexual.

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Float On

oops, one thing to think about, that by having any post that presents a term for asexuality, it gets implied that there is an in or out. the only way to be truly rid of this would be to not have any posts at all. posts tell people that they do or do not belong. additionally, we accept people who don't accept others in the community - so we can only trully accept everyone if we only except one person. and don't tell them anything.

so basically, creating a forum based off of the david j model defeats the david j model

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Jon0

I'm going to point out that MANY of the terms are for identification uses and not to subtract from the asexuality as a whole.... many fall into gray-asexual areas as the umbrella is simply HUGE.

"Asexual = does not experience sexual attraction" is a pretty clear definition and that's why we also have gray-asexual for those that may, or are still questioning, or only have specific causes to attraction. I do think Desire should be added as many people think they aren't the same... even in definition "sexual desire = sexual attraction" (vise versa for sexual attraction).

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Jeena

I do not fit the definition of Asexual if I were to use the definition, "an asexual is someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction". I definitely do experience sexual attraction. I feel I fit asexuality in that the idea of having sex is unappealing and that a 1,000,000 different things seem better than sex. I do not need it to have a good time. I also personally feel like sex should only be done for procreation and not recreation. I don't feel that the definition on the site is a bad thing, but it took me a while to figure out that I am indeed asexual. I had to scour the internet for other ways to define the term other than 'an asexual experiences no sexual attraction; period'.

So, in short, (if I am understanding the OP correctly or not, I have no idea) I feel the same way in that the definition on the site does not fit anyone and everyone.

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poindexter

oops, one thing to think about, that by having any post that presents a term for asexuality, it gets implied that there is an in or out. the only way to be truly rid of this would be to not have any posts at all. posts tell people that they do or do not belong. additionally, we accept people who don't accept others in the community - so we can only trully accept everyone if we only except one person. and don't tell them anything.

so basically, creating a forum based off of the david j model defeats the david j model

I don't think so, I think it's possible for one site to allow people to express differing viewpoints on what asexuality is, but the "official" view (the definition at the top of the page) that everyone uses as a measuring stick, makes it impossible. And alternative would be that they abandon the model and exclude people from calling themselves asexual if they don't fit the definition, which obviously has it's own issues.

In effect, there are two "official" definitions of asexuality put forward by the site - that an asexual is a person who calls themselves asexual (which is the only position defended by the ToS) or it's a person who doesn't experience sexual attraction (which is, supposedly, the only "official" definition). How can these two exist side by side, with one openly contradicting the other?

To me, AVEN only pays the current "official" definition lip service to get people in the door, but it's not something the site itself takes seriously. The real official definition of asexuality is "an asexual is a person who calls themselves asexual".

Anyone care to contradict this?

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Rising Sun

You're right on this, but choosing between these two definitions, the "anyone who says to be asexual is asexual" is the one that we should get rid of IMO. Sure, we shouldn't be too judgmental of reasons that lead some people to identify as asexuals with totally weird definitions - but even being too judgmental isn't quite as bad as letting antisexuals and religious fundamentalists (for example) enter.

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poindexter

I do not fit the definition of Asexual if I were to use the definition, "an asexual is someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction". I definitely do experience sexual attraction. I feel I fit asexuality in that the idea of having sex is unappealing and that a 1,000,000 different things seem better than sex. I do not need it to have a good time. I also personally feel like sex should only be done for procreation and not recreation. I don't feel that the definition on the site is a bad thing, but it took me a while to figure out that I am indeed asexual. I had to scour the internet for other ways to define the term other than 'an asexual experiences no sexual attraction; period'.

So, in short, (if I am understanding the OP correctly or not, I have no idea) I feel the same way in that the definition on the site does not fit anyone and everyone.

That's not what I'm saying exactly, but you're a useful example XD. If I said that you are not asexual, because you fall outside the definition at the top of the page, then I could get in trouble. This is because the real official stance, as the only one defended by the site, is that anyone who calls themselves asexual is asexual.

I just want clarity on whether that is the case or not. I think like Serran mentioned, AVEN just wants to have it's cake (ha-ha) and eat it too in regards to visibility, education and an all-inclusive community.

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Robin L

I just want clarity on whether that is the case or not. I think like Serran mentioned, AVEN just wants to have it's cake (ha-ha) and eat it too in regards to visibility, education and an all-inclusive community.

However, sacrificing any part of that would cause great damage to the AVEN community.

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Telecaster68

Half of a post from the other thread on this subject... I got confused about who said what where:

Serran's point about community and activist needs being contradictory is important. All activist movements bitch and argue internally about comparative details that nobody outside the movement understands or cares about, and that's fine. And they all look like - in a previous poster's term - fucksticks to the outside world when they do it (People's Front of Judea, anyone? Republican Party? UK Labour Party?). There's a reason politicians' public words seem vague and mealy mouthed: they have to carry a wide a disputatious bunch of activists with them. To affect any change, they have to keep that wide supporter base, and in the end that's more important than semantic hair splitting.

On the other hand, using those labels can be really helpful to people joining the movement as a way of finding their own identity, and to that extent the bitching and arguing is useful.

The way to resolve this is to consciously manage how the movement's image is presented to the outside world. This can seem cynical, or like spin, but most people don't have the time or inclination to follow the intricacies of the internal debate and if they can't even understand what the movement wants, you can't get to the point where you'll persuade them and you'll never change anything.

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WünderBâhr

I think one thing is being focused on is what is considered DJ's model vs the practical use of it within the forums. The culture of acceptance is not there to say asexuality is a free for all for any who wish to call themselves as such, even if that is somewhat perceived. From my understanding, over the yrs, is that what is "intended" is a gradual understanding of experiences (which grossly vary, even under the asexual umbrella).

If the label fits (which depends on multiple factors), then one may choose to use it. If they so use it, then we are not in a position to 100% argue against it. Debate, yes, but it leaves room for all parties to "figure it out". Anything more strict would attempt to box in what cannot be boxed, which is the understanding of identity or sexuality as a whole. Our collective experiences make this nigh impossible. So both definitions exist as a guideline from which members can browse, learn, experience and grow.

This "mandatory inclusion" is one direction the community has taken as a consequence of past events. In order to take a member's experience seriously, and to avoid that boxing in I mentioned before, people began to take a stance of "subjective validation". We couldn't very well start stamping people's foreheads with one identity or another, so we had to choose inclusion vs exclusion.

Obviously, not everyone agreed/agrees with that; hence, the debates we have running throughout the forums of what labels/identities mean, and so on. We're discussing topics that branch off of a general framework, and are left vague enough that a person can freely explore their own experiences while connecting with others and learning from theirs.

Without a way to reconcile what sexuality is, I doubt we'll find one set solution on defining asexuality well enough that everyone is happy with. We can certainly talk it out, though, so threads like this are still useful.

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AshenPhoenix

I believe the main reason David has that definition specifically is because that it's hard to be a visibility and education organization and be taken seriously if the identity you're trying to help doesn't even have an official "definition" you use.

But another reason I've been told David has SPECIFICALLY this definition is because it's vague in a very specific sense. While it may seem very cut and dry "No sexual attraction = asexual". It also has never been officially established just exactly what sexual attraction is. And thus the speculation that we see so often here on AVEN. But this is actually meant to allow people to speculate and give their own explanation as to what "asexual" really is, and whether or not they fit under it. While we may all agree that an asexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction is the definition at the top of the page, what exactly that entails, and therefore what asexual is. Is largely up for debate, and also therefore largely able to be determined by each person and how they specifically feel towards the label. If they so chose.

So, in this way, AVEN has an official definition that is as close to the collective identity model as possible (in the sense that we all identify with the lack of sexual attraction or the general label of asexual, whatever that may be and how we perceive it), while also having a way to cleanly and simply move forward in education and visibility efforts for the wider world. Because let's face it, the world is not so simple and open minded to actually deal with the bombardment of questioning and identities that exist within our community (and the same could be said for most sexuality based communities).

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Guest

I just want clarity on whether that is the case or not. I think like Serran mentioned, AVEN just wants to have it's cake (ha-ha) and eat it too in regards to visibility, education and an all-inclusive community.

However, sacrificing any part of that would cause great damage to the AVEN community.

I doubt that. IMO, toning down the inclusivity dogma a good notch would benefit the AVEN community, not harm it.

AVEN saw the exclusionary elitism of the NLS, rightly identified it as harmful bullshit and, just as rightly, distanced itself from it... but over time, AVEN then went too far into the opposite direction.

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Float On

whether or not the ToS says to include everyone, the community does already push people towards the label the community collectively judges the person should identify as. it's not something that can be made not to happen. people find pc ways to not really tell a person, "no you aren't that label" by saying stuff like, "the label means this thing and doesn't mean this other thing" which doesn't violate the ToS but does mold people to a certain community standard set of definitions.

I strongly support the existence of ToS that says you can't tell someone who they are and what they experience. but, I definitely oppose the interpretation that anyone who claims they are asexual is asexual. what a person expresses is simply the words they think are right in expressing who they are. we cannot tell someone who they are, but we can tell them that their expression is contrary to the standard. and I think that there should be support for a standard of expresison. this doesn't have to be an "official standard" or a "unifying standard" but for example that page with different models of asexuality is a good one to have at hand. presenting the knowledge of existing recognized models of dialog, so that people can use those models of dialog to discuss concepts. and having an "aven model" that's presented but not "declared to be truth" would suffice - instead of a definition that we measure people against, have a set of terms that is commonly used to express experience. people can choose to use these terms as defined, or can use alternative terms if they want.

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Shockwave

Well, the definition was present on the original forum, and placed there by David Jay. So there's that.

It was, however, altered slightly at some point; it was changed from "An asexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction" to "An asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction" to make it feel less like a label and more like a description.

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Guest

Well, the definition was present on the original forum, and placed there by David Jay. So there's that.

Listening to some statements by DJ make it pretty clear that when he says "sexual attraction", he personally does mean "desire for partnered sex". e.g., there's that video of him talking with Laci Green (which I'm admittedly to lazy to dig out for linking, right now :p).

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Skullery Maid

My issue with the definition at the top is that, yeah, it suggests that's the definition.

But then when you say "that definition blows", the AVEN team says "well there's no definition for asexuality."

And if you ask the AVEN team to change it to something that's not ridiculous, you get the same answer of "well there's no definition for asexuality."

EXCEPT THERE'S A G**D*** DEFINITION ON THE TOP OF THE FREAKING PAGE!!!!

So yeah, it drives me absolutely insane that there's no definition when it's convenient and a very strict (albeit idiotic one) when that's convenient.

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Lost247365

It is definitely sending mix signals.

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poindexter

Well, the definition was present on the original forum, and placed there by David Jay. So there's that.

It was, however, altered slightly at some point; it was changed from "An asexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction" to "An asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction" to make it feel less like a label and more like a description.

So an actual human being decided on that wording? I always thought it was a mistake, it's bothered me for a long time. And now I still don't get why it's like that. How is "asexual person" less labelly than "asexual"? Man, people are weird..

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Sally

Well, the definition was present on the original forum, and placed there by David Jay. So there's that.

It was, however, altered slightly at some point; it was changed from "An asexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction" to "An asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction" to make it feel less like a label and more like a description.

So an actual human being decided on that wording? I always thought it was a mistake, it's bothered me for a long time. And now I still don't get why it's like that. How is "asexual person" less labelly than "asexual"? Man, people are weird..

The actual human being, David Jay, was the originator and is the owner of AVEN.

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Skullery Maid

Well, the definition was present on the original forum, and placed there by David Jay. So there's that.

It was, however, altered slightly at some point; it was changed from "An asexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction" to "An asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction" to make it feel less like a label and more like a description.

So an actual human being decided on that wording? I always thought it was a mistake, it's bothered me for a long time. And now I still don't get why it's like that. How is "asexual person" less labelly than "asexual"? Man, people are weird..

The actual human being, David Jay, was the originator and is the owner of AVEN.

Yeah but I don't think he's the one who added an extra "person" to the definition...

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m4rble

The definition at the top of the site isn't very clear to me because people have wildly different definitions of what constitutes sexual attraction.

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Lady Girl

My issue with the definition at the top is that, yeah, it suggests that's the definition.

But then when you say "that definition blows", the AVEN team says "well there's no definition for asexuality."

And if you ask the AVEN team to change it to something that's not ridiculous, you get the same answer of "well there's no definition for asexuality."

EXCEPT THERE'S A G**D*** DEFINITION ON THE TOP OF THE FREAKING PAGE!!!!

So yeah, it drives me absolutely insane that there's no definition when it's convenient and a very strict (albeit idiotic one) when that's convenient.

I know you've read some of my posts regarding it (although I can sound confusing at times, generally I'm pretty clear...I don't think it's the best definition, it's misleading after some consideration...to me anyway). My personal opinion probably doesn't line up with the above quoted line of reasoning, even though I'm part of the team.

I don't think the team is responsible for the AVEN definition. It's my understanding that the webmasters hold that card (but I could be wrong).

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Robin L

Well, the definition was present on the original forum, and placed there by David Jay. So there's that.

It was, however, altered slightly at some point; it was changed from "An asexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction" to "An asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction" to make it feel less like a label and more like a description.

Also it made it ever so slightly more redundantly redundant with a redundant "person" for extra redundancy.

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Telecaster68
It's my understanding that the webmasters hold that card

The techies control the content of a website? Eh?

I'm not saying you're wrong LG, just that techies don't control the content of most websites. They publish what they're told to publish, just like a telephone engineer doesn't tell you what to say on the phone.

Or has AVEN redefined 'webmaster' too?

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Robin L
It's my understanding that the webmasters hold that card

The techies control the content of a website? Eh?

I'm not saying you're wrong LG, just that techies don't control the content of most websites. They publish what they're told to publish, just like a telephone engineer doesn't tell you what to say on the phone.

Or has AVEN redefined 'webmaster' too?

Well, DJ isn't just a webmaster. He is the founder and creator of the website and community. In a company, the webmasters go by the orders of their bosses. On AVEN, there is no one higher up.

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