Pramana

Generational Conflicts within the AVEN Community

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Pramana

It is more popular with young people today to identify with highly specific sexual orientation and gender labels (probably due to the influence of social media and sexuality and gender studies college programs), some of which may be added as lighter shades of grey to an expanded asexuality spectrum. While David Jay, Nat Titman, and Andrew Hinderliter originally circumscribed asexuality as a spectrum encompassing both an absence and a low degree of sexual attraction, it is arguable that some of these new identity labels represent lighter shades of grey than what David Jay &co would have envisioned.

My objective here is not to pass judgment on these new identity labels, but rather to ask a different question, that being "what does it matter?"

As an adult who is confident that asexuality exists and who is secure in my identity, practically speaking to me this trend doesn't matter. I don't feel invalidated by how other people choose to identify, even if their experiences are very different from mine. If I were to choose to feel invalidated, that would speak more to my attitude than it would to the facts. So I don't feel the need to spend all my time online questioning adolescents over their use of terminology. Granted, I also don't require asexuality to convince people of my sexual disinterest (I just tell people that I avoid sex), nor do I base my self-esteem entirely around my sexual orientation identity.

Some people are of the view that these new identity labels are immature. However, this raises another question, that concerning the arguably greater immaturity of spending all one's time online complaining about adolescents using these labels? 

Sure, you can find places where people make fun of asexuality on the Internet. But everyone gets made fun of on the Internet. There is a risk of spending too much time on the Internet, and losing perspective.

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Sphene

you do you

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.Lia

Some people find great comfort in a label that fits them so perfectly when the hetero-normative world has never offered that to them before.

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Gldlynch

Yes, labels can grow confusing, but I respect them. If a person feels the need to address who they are in regards to gender identity and sexual orientation, I think we should all step back and respect it as is. It means that the person is confident with who they are and that is an attribute to be highlighted. Personally, I just say that I'm queer. If people don't buy into that label, I simply say I'm a "late bloomer" and ignore the rest of their comments.

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Snao Cone

 I was a super annoying teenager who liked to play with words to create new philosophies that differentiated me from the rest. It's called growth. However the younger people playing with words may identify when they're in their 30s, right now they're exploring concepts as a way to develop their sense of self.

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Puck
14 minutes ago, Snao Cone said:

 I was a super annoying teenager who liked to play with words to create new philosophies that differentiated me from the rest. It's called growth. However the younger people playing with words may identify when they're in their 30s, right now they're exploring concepts as a way to develop their sense of self.

Never grow. Stay the same. Whatever you said when you were 13 you will be held to.

 

When I was 13 I was confident I was a weirdo no one liked, and it has come true ten fold as I've aged!

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Kumoku

I've found a fantastic post in regards to macro labels (things that just cover general feelings/thoughts/experiences/ideology around sexual attraction) and micro labels (when you start getting specifically into sexual actions, inactions, attraction philosophies due to trauma, etc.)

 

Human sexuality is extremely complex. There’s no way to say it isn’t. This is why human sexuality vocabulary is changing on a daily basis. This is why people are constantly wondering “What AM I? What group can I comfortably attach myself to?” Humans are social beings by nature and this is why we’re constantly trying to “attach” ourselves to others. We DO NOT want to feel like we’re the only one in the world going through what we’re going through. The sentence feels “odd”, but the reality is, our brains will make ourselves believe anything (”I am the only one”, “no one else is like me out there”, etc.).

 

Macro labels are labels that describe OVERALL sexual attraction (or lack, thereof) without getting into too-much detail (bisexual, pansexual/asexual, greysexual, gay/lesbian, your “basic” starter pack to the LGBT+ community).

 

However, we then get into the “micro” labels. These labels are the labels we’ve used to describe SPECIFIC kinds of sexual attraction (or lackthereof) OR labels attached to activities. In the case of sexual activities and attractions, we have terms like placiosexual (not exhibiting sexual attraction, you want to do sexual acts on others but would rather not have them done on yourself), greyomnisapphic (rarely having sexual attraction, but during the instances you do have sexual attraction, you don’t give a damn for who it’s for, but lean heavily on the wlw side of things), PanNeu (Pansexual/omnisexual but leaning on neutral), etc.

 

For some people, the macrolabel is enough and you know what? That’s fantastic. However, that’s not the case with everyone. For some, they need the microlabel. This is just as fine. Whatever circle you find yourself attached to, live it and love it. 

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FictoVore.
1 hour ago, Pramana said:

So I don't feel the need to spend all my time online questioning adolescents over their use of terminology.

There's a difference between questioning people and giving them useful information which will help them (and others who may have the same questions and confusions as they do) feel less alienated in the world. The vast majority of what goes on here is education (which is in the title of the website) , as opposed to 'questioning others about their chosen identity'. A lot of the education given on AVEN are things this website itself is lacking in its 'info' pages, and stuff that's lacking in the general media. For example, mamy women aren't instantly ready for sex as soon as a sexy man kisses them. The media/movies/books etc generally show women wanting sex as soon as a man starts kissing them, leading many who come to AVEN to believe that's how women's bodies work, meaning they think they're 'different' or 'broken' if their body doesn't work that way. However, anyone with adequate sexual experience in the real world know that many women need adequate foreplay, among other things, before they can become aroused enough to actively be ready for, and enjoy, sexual activity. That's one example of the type of education people give those who are questioning their own identity on AVEN. My example may seem very basic and obvious to many reading this, but it's a fact that people come to AVEN truly believing that what they see in the media is how sex really works, and they must be asexual based on that. There's no harm in explaining to them that they're not actual broken or disfunctioning the way that they usually think they are.

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mspaint

while i personally find the concept of the macro-label enough for me, i feel younger people like myself still are figuring themselves out and part of that is having that specific label that makes you feel... comfortable with yourself. I used to try and fish for that really specific modifier to the ace label to describe myself but, its complicated for everyone and for me its easier to give you the basic "ace" label because ive grown to be very comfortable with it.  

 

so to answer the question, it doesn't matter, but for some people it does, and regardless of how one feels about it labels should be respected, or a least tolerated, because that matters.

 

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TopHatCat

Labels serve a few purposesthey help communicate how you experience things to others, legitimize an orientation by naming it, and give the user of the label a sense of community.

 

Legitimization and communication are more easily achieved by the macro labels, because one big encompassing term is more easily recognized. I think the micro labels mostly help people find a sense of community, but also encourage them to discover every part of their orientation (what they're comfortable with, what attraction they do experience, etc).

 

For most people, micro labels might only be relevant in a conversation if it's with a potential partner for a relationship. The rest of the time it's such a private thing that the details won't really come up (unless it's an extended discussion on the topic with a friend or family member). Thus their use is surely more personal than interpersonal.

 

It doesn't speak to immaturity necessarily (although it certainly could), as much as it might imply one being new to the concept of asexuality as a whole.

 

@Pramana Your post was very carefully worded, I admire that.

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Lichley

The terms themselves, whilst useful in describing your identity in more detail, are just cutting the cloth of human sexuality into smaller and smaller pieces. There should be a limit as to how many cuts we make, otherwise trying to introduce all of the terms to the newcomers would be nearly impossible.

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timewarp

If you want a label that fully describes you, just use your fingerprints.

 

The thing that many of the young folks don't get is that nobody will ever fit one label, no matter how many labels they invent. We are all individuals and at some point it's just simpler to use plain language. A summary statement in one or two sentences is infinitely easier than hours of discussion about meaning and prevalence of a tailored "orientation".

 

That said, all these labels are probably just an expression of lack of confidence.

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Jayce

Actually, when i was a teen the only thing i worried about were my nintendo and playstation games. 

 

 

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Sally

I have confidence in my asexuality, since it's been with me all my life, even when I couldn't name it.  But I do worry that the thousands of permutations will hinder the public visibility of asexuality.   Discussion of those thousands among ourselves is fine; in public utterances/articles/etc., I wish we'd just say "I'm asexual; that means I'm not interested in having sex with anyone."

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Tarfeather

I fully believe that in communist utopia, sexual orientation labels will become unnecessary. They were necessary for people to raise awareness that different orientations exist, but outside of that, nobody cares about your orientation. So yeah, I kind of agree that having so many labels is unnecessary, they're not there to uniquely identify you, they exist to raise awareness.

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OpenAce

I know for me, being a late teen we're kinda expected to know everything about ourselves- like sure we get talks on "its okay to be figuring it out", but really, there's so much pressure to know exactly who you are. I also find that having different labels means that I can better explain things to my (allo) friends. E.g. one of them asked me last night- "so some aces enjoy sex"- my response: "yes, but not me as I'm sex repulsed/averse" Even just that was helpful.
I also find it helpful as I very much feel the need to know as much about myself as I can, and be able to explain that to others. I even specify that I'm hetero-platonic, because I am only platonic attracted to the opposite gender (in my case guys), if I were introducing myself I'd just say aroace, but its an important thing within myself to know.

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FictoVore.
50 minutes ago, Tarfeather said:

I fully believe that in communist utopia, sexual orientation labels will become unnecessary. They were necessary for people to raise awareness that different orientations exist, but outside of that, nobody cares about your orientation. So yeah, I kind of agree that having so many labels is unnecessary, they're not there to uniquely identify you, they exist to raise awareness.

Would you agree though that specific labels (asexual/homosexual/heterosexual/bisexual) are necessary for determining sexual compatibility? Or do you mean that in this 'communist utopia' people will just say things like ''I don't want to have sex with anyone, ever'' ''I'm only interested in sex with women'' etc as opposed to using specific labels to determine whether or not they may be sexually compatible?

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Telecaster68

There's a danger that by sticking a label onto yourself, you then feel the need to conform to that label rather than consider that maybe the label wasn't quite accurate to start with - people want to be part of their new club so much they force themselves to fit what they think are it's rules. There are plenty of threads phrased like 'can I still be asexual if [whatever]?' as though their new friends will  be cross if they're caught fancying someone.

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AndrewT

Labels are good and bad.

 

I agree with others that the micro labels are more useful when inside, they add confusion to the outside world.

 

Life is not black and white, it is shades of grey.

 

Labels never bothered me, people are people.

 

When labels help people with identity that is a good thing, if labels are used in an inclusive way it's ok, it's when they are used in an exclusive way it's a bad thing (you can only join the club if....).

 

The following please do not take serious ;)

 

There are lots of labels outside the heterosexual norm, yet most of the world apparently identifies as heterosexual male or female, just 2 choices...... I think they need more labels......

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Tarfeather
4 hours ago, FictoVore. said:

Would you agree though that specific labels (asexual/homosexual/heterosexual/bisexual) are necessary for determining sexual compatibility? Or do you mean that in this 'communist utopia' people will just say things like ''I don't want to have sex with anyone, ever'' ''I'm only interested in sex with women'' etc as opposed to using specific labels to determine whether or not they may be sexually compatible?

Well, I can only think of two components to that where it might be relevant. The "looking for" case, as in dating site, bar, swinger club or whatever. In which case, people probably want to state their preferences more specifically anyway, like the type of sex, body type, or whatever other preferences they might have. "I'm looking for a man who is interested in this type of sex and has that body type", seems no more cumbersome than saying "I'm heterosexual and looking for someone with foo bar". So I don't know how labels would be useful here.

 

In the context of dating a specific person, well, honestly, asexuality seems to be the only case where that's even relevant. In all other cases, it's implicit that you're potentially sexually interested in the other person if you're willing to date them. So in that case, maybe the label asexual is useful, although saying "I'm not interested in sex" seems just as valid.

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Polygon
12 hours ago, Pramana said:

"what does it matter?"

Strong desire to go full-edgelord and say that absolutely nothing matters right now.

 

I think even for the most obscure of labels it's helpful for people that thought they were alone, and shows that there's a word (even if a relatively new one) that manages to put into order their experiences and feelings. They can be helpful as long as people don't get carried away. To the "immaturity" question, I don't particularly mind because there are far worse things a person could be than "immature".

 

On the other hand, a lot of people do get too attached to their labels, define themselves by them, and even make important decisions based on them. It's borderline astrology in the sense that some people actually base decisions and key character aspects on this stuff. This isn't a unique problem to gender identity or sexual orientation, though - people love their labels and boxes (MBTI personality test, let it be damned once and for all, to Florida). I guess the cautionary part of this is that some people latch onto these things so much that they end up feeling "locked in", where down the line they might realize they don't fit the label as well as they thought, leading to significant identity struggles if they were too invested in the labels. 

 

 

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TheAP

My opinion is that people should use as many or as few, as specific or as unspecific, labels as they want to define themselves. I've heard the arguments against them, but none really make sense to me. 

 

"They're unnecessary" - so? Lots of things are unnecessary. Just because the world would be just as good without a certain label doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the label.

 

"They're confusing" - no one is saying you have to memorize all the terms, just that you should respect the ones that people in your life use.

 

"They make asexuality look bad" - I couldn't care less about the acceptance of people who only accept things that are easy to understand, who would dismiss a whole orientation for some silly reason. Our image isn't as important as making the members of our community feel supported.

 

"Some of them are redundant" - lots of words have synonyms; for example, fast, quick, rapid. But you never see people criticizing those words. So it's baffling to me why the identity labels are the only ones that get backlash.

 

"People cling to their labels and define themselves by them" - I haven't really seen people doing this? I'm open to examples, though.

 

Basically, let people identify how they want. Maybe in the future they'll change their identity, and that's okay too. Figuring out who you are is a journey, and it can be long and complicated, and different for every person. If you see someone using a term that you're not familiar with or don't understand, feel free to ask questions about it, and ask the person why they identify that way. But don't dismiss it because it seems strange to you. It's not hurting anyone, but your judgment can hurt people.

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Deus Ex Infinity

I never

12 hours ago, .Lia said:

Some people find great comfort in a label that fits them so perfectly when the hetero-normative world has never offered that to them before.

Exactly. Besides I've never experienced any serious generational conflicts on this site so far. Everyone seems to be very open-minded and accepting.

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Polygon
54 minutes ago, TheAP said:

"People cling to their labels and define themselves by them" - I haven't really seen people doing this? I'm open to examples, though.

This is really just human nature. Random example: some people that come to realize they're gay or bi often go through significant identity conflicts, because they either implicitly or explicitly embraced a label of "straight" (from cultural norms) for so long that it can feel like a difficult process to disassociate themselves from that. 

 

I'll reiterate it's not a specific problem with gender or sexual orientations. It's a universal, human quality that we identify ourselves by certain labels, and to no longer feel part of one can be distressing. Evidence of it is all around us. Religious to atheist and vice versa is a classic example of feeling like part of a community and not really wanting to give that up, even though you don't feel like part of that group anymore. Nationalism... "I'm an American, I'm British, I'm part of [x, y, z]".. people cling to that stuff. Losing those can be harmful if you put too much store into them. 

 

I agree with pretty much everything else, as I'm generally pro-labels. Still, I think there's merit to the possibility that instead of considering labels as absolute, rigid things, that it might be better to embrace more fluidity and not take the labels too seriously. 

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Pramana

I've never been convinced by concerns about people prematurely "pigeonholing" themselves with the wrong identity label, and then limiting their future life opportunities through holding to that label. I have three issues with it:


1. It sounds implausible. If people subsequently develop strong sexual desires, they'll probably recognize that and change their identity accordingly. Assuming that celibacy tends to be challenging for sexual people, it's unlikely that they'll repress their sexuality just because they've committed to an identity label like "lithsexual" as an adolescent.
2. I haven't seen any empirical evidence supporting the reality of this alleged problem.
3. We could flip the scripts, and worry about people prematurely attaching to a sexual label, and then foregoing potential asexual experiences.

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AndrewT

I can't see how people changing labels would ever be a problem, people change. 

 

Obviously there are some exceptions, you never change your allegiance to your football team (Soccer for Americans) ;)

 

The problems with confusion will happen, when new terms are presented to the rest of the world. It would not be fair to expect everyone to learn and understand the differences between everything. (Example - I know what ballroom dancing is, but I'm not going to learn the names of all the dances, when it does not effect me)

 

Having the Macro terms understood in itself would be a major step forward.

 

 

 

 

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Snao Cone
1 hour ago, Pramana said:

I've never been convinced by concerns about people prematurely "pigeonholing" themselves with the wrong identity label, and then limiting their future life opportunities through holding to that label. I have three issues with it:


1. It sounds implausible. If people subsequently develop strong sexual desires, they'll probably recognize that and change their identity accordingly. Assuming that celibacy tends to be challenging for sexual people, it's unlikely that they'll repress their sexuality just because they've committed to an identity label like "lithsexual" as an adolescent.
2. I haven't seen any empirical evidence supporting the reality of this alleged problem.
3. We could flip the scripts, and worry about people prematurely attaching to a sexual label, and then foregoing potential asexual experiences.

I think it's constructive and positive to tell young questioning asexuals not to pigeonhole themselves. You seem to think it's a matter of gatekeeping. It's not. It's about being helpful towards people who are at a point of uncertainty, and reassuring them that they shouldn't sweat it if they discover something different.

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FictoVore.
15 hours ago, Tarfeather said:

Well, I can only think of two components to that where it might be relevant. The "looking for" case, as in dating site, bar, swinger club or whatever. In which case, people probably want to state their preferences more specifically anyway, like the type of sex, body type, or whatever other preferences they might have. "I'm looking for a man who is interested in this type of sex and has that body type", seems no more cumbersome than saying "I'm heterosexual and looking for someone with foo bar". So I don't know how labels would be useful here.

 

In the context of dating a specific person, well, honestly, asexuality seems to be the only case where that's even relevant. In all other cases, it's implicit that you're potentially sexually interested in the other person if you're willing to date them. So in that case, maybe the label asexual is useful, although saying "I'm not interested in sex" seems just as valid.

I personally think it's more important for example in a workplace (as a random example) where you get interested in someone but aren't sure if they'd be interested back. If you're a man but they're very open about being a lesbian (even if you've never seen them with a girlfriend) you know you don't have nearly as much chance of going out with them and may decide to set your hopes on someone else. I know for me, even though I've never *actively* been hunting for someone on AVEN, I'll always check the orientation label to give me some idea of what would happen if I started 'moving forward' with someone I was talking to, or even just how to behave in a private convo. So for example if someone was clearly identifying as a sexual lesbian or sexual straight guy, I'd always make sure to not seem as though I was flirting or anything like that as it's very easy for sexual people to pick up on those sorts of vibes. Whereas if someone is IDing as asexual I'd make sure not to make overly sexual jokes that might freak them out (or if I know someone is a Jehovah's Witness I'm not going to go on to them about Jesus!). Knowing someone's orientation helps to dictate how I will behave around them and what I'll say.. For example I'll behave much more openly around a gay man than I will around a straight man, I'll even happily be dressed attractively with lots of cleavage out etc around a gay man (have actually done that on Skype call with a gay guy from AVEN before I met my partner) but with straight guys from AVEN I'll usually have no makeup, thick glasses, clothes that cover me completely etc. And I think MANY women feel the same if they're not actively looking for a partner or are feeling uncomfortable about themselves or whatever. They're often likely to be a LOT more open with a gay man than a straight man in those circumstances, even let a gay man touch them without feeling awkward (like how Gok Wan is always touching women's boobs  and they think it's great!! haha). Knowing a person's sexual orientation beforehand is very important in all these situations because it helps dictate how you'll behave (and that's ASIDE from dating, for example on any dating site you always check their orientation label before you message them!).  Also, if you're gay and someone of a different gender is trying to come onto you at a bar, it's a lot easier to just say 'I'm gay sorry' (which any sexual person knows that implicitly means 'i don't want to have sex with you, I only want sex with people of my own gender') than explaining that you you're only interested in having sex with other men or whatever. The term 'gay' covers the whole concept of sex, relationships, aesthetic preferences, the whole lot, which just saying 'i only want sex with men' doesn't really convey fully.

 

I'm not actually arguing with you, I don't have any issue with you thinking there shouldn't be any orientation labels, I'm just coming at this from a totally different perspective than you!! And regardless of that, 'micro labels' still hold very little practical value because all that really matters is if you're asexual that means you don't want sex and if you're any of the other sexual orientations you'll want sex with someone :P

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Chimeric

I used to spend hours meticulously crafting worlds for my gaming/writing/whatever project I had going on at the time. Races, cultures, territories, religious beliefs, language. It's fun to do that kind of stuff, and especially in an environment that also allows younger folks to try to communicate what they're feeling to the world.

 

The problem is that the general world has no use for a lot of really particular, really specific labels. I run into this issue a lot in my field. People submit biopsies to me. Follicular cysts make up a lot of those biopsies. I would be technically correct to diagnose a pilomatrical follicular cyst versus an infundibular follicular cyst, but whenever I do this my comments to the submitting clinician are literally "the distinction is academic," and I go on to communicate the information that they actually want - it's a cyst, it's benign, you cut it all out and it's not coming back. Once I'm out of residency and not compelled by the Powers That Be to use the technical terms, I will stop diagnosing things that way - I will stick to "follicular cyst." All of the information, none of the confusion.

 

AVEN is an educational network. Too many labels impedes our ability to communicate effectively. If we can't communicate effectively, we can't be all that shocked when the world doesn't "get" us.

 

People can do what they want (I don't want my language policed, like hell am I going to police someone else's), but at the end of the day, there are real consequences that arise from this sort of thing. It's just worth being aware of it, particularly in the context of a website that's touting it's ability to educate.

 

 

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Sally
20 hours ago, Telecaster68 said:

There's a danger that by sticking a label onto yourself, you then feel the need to conform to that label rather than consider that maybe the label wasn't quite accurate to start with - people want to be part of their new club so much they force themselves to fit what they think are it's rules. There are plenty of threads phrased like 'can I still be asexual if [whatever]?' as though their new friends will  be cross if they're caught fancying someone.

I think the label-hunger and need to tell their friends those labels are most common during teens/early 20s.  By the time you're done with school, you're out of that period of mandatory disclosure to the world.  

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