Pramana

Anxiety that Asexuality is Becoming a 'Special Snowflake' Orientation

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Pramana

What's really hurting asexuality visibility is constant definitional hairsplitting reminiscent of Medieval theological debates, and what's motivating definition debates is insecurity that asexuality won't be taken seriously. The problem is that the fastest way to ensure asexuality won't be taken seriously is to have a community that becomes unlikeable because it spends all its time arguing over definitions.

Perhaps it would be more productive to focus our efforts on addressing this insecurity. The worry is that the public will consider asexuality a 'special snowflake' orientation given:
1. Some asexuals say they still want sex.
2. Saturation with Tumblr offshoots of asexuality (cupiosexual, fraysexual, lithsexual, etc.).

Whereby the problem of asexuality not being taken seriously is that when I tell people I'm asexual, they'll still expect me to want sex, and won't accept being asexual as a reason for not wanting sex. This insecurity is attributable to the sexual assumption.

Sexual assumption: the idea that everyone should be expected to have sex (especially in romantic relationships) unless it's biologically impossible for them to want sex. The problem with definition debates is that people are trying to redefine asexuality so that it's biologically impossible for asexuals to want sex, when instead what people should be doing is challenging the sexual assumption.

A Few Additional Points of Relevance

1. I contacted Anthony Bogaert (probably the most well-known asexuality researcher) about whether an asexual could actively desire partnered sex for self-gratification. He thought this possible, but noted that specific factors would have to be in place. One must consider the nuances of individual stories, and see whether a person can make intelligible why they desire partnered sex for self-gratification despite lacking sexual attraction. Orientations have fuzzy boundaries, and won't always provide the certainty that identity politics requires.

2. Recent research suggests a relatively high percentage of sexual people who either prefer not to have sex, or who are happy not having sex. Interestingly, the numbers of sexual people in each of those two categories outnumbers the number of asexual people.

3. Asexuality was used an an umbrella term throughout early community history; the concept of an asexual spectrum derives from David Jay's original models. More recent studies utilizing the Asexuality Identification Scale provide empirical evidence suggesting that asexuality is a continual category. A 2018 Chinese study suggests that asexuality encompasses a lack or low degree of sexual attraction (meshing with Michael Storms's orientation model which conceptualizes asexuality as the opposite of bisexuality).

4. The vast majority of asexuals, gray-asexuals, and demisexuals in the community censuses of 2014 and 2015 reported neutral to negative attitudes towards personal involvement in sexual activities. Only a small percentage reported a favourable attitude.

5. Identity culture entails that young people today might think about orientation in ways that diverge from traditional models (hence, the Tumblr offshoots of asexuality).

6. There will always be the occasional tabloid-worthy story of people who identify with an orientation for convoluted reasons.

Takeaway Idea


The definition debate is immature and animated by insecurity. Instead, we should focus on challenging the sexual assumption and building an inclusive community.

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J. ALFRED PRUFROCK

I will say that I can barely stand definition debates, but this is probably because I can't stand linguistic prescriptivists, and all definition debates seem to come from the perspective that words are naturally occurring with an objective meanings, not cultural creations capable of having different meanings in different contexts, which proceed to evolve divergently.

 

That said, this thread is such a dogwhistle that it marks the target and debuffs their protection.

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TheAP

The notion that asexuality is a special snowflake orientation rests on illogical and bigoted assumptions: presuming, with no evidence, that everyone who does 1) and 2) is doing it to be special, and then generalizing it to all asexuals. We shouldn't listen to the bigots or throw other members of the community under the bus to pacify them. If people won't accept that someone doesn't want sex, it's not because of asexuals who say they want sex; it's because that person isn't respecting the other person's sexual preferences and boundaries.

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Grimalkin
5 minutes ago, J. Alfred Prufrock said:

I will say that I can barely stand definition debates, but this is probably because I can't stand linguistic prescriptivists, and all definition debates seem to come from the perspective that words are naturally occurring with an objective meanings, not cultural creations capable of having different meanings in different contexts, which proceed to evolve divergently.

 

That said, this thread is such a dogwhistle that it marks the target and debuffs their protection.

Holy moly, do you talk like this in real life? Can I hang out with you occasionally so that my friends think I'm an intellectual?

 

Joking aside, I don't think any of it is a problem. The more people who identify as asexual, whether (cough cough) "valid" or not, the more knowledge of it spreads. And people who think it's a special snowflake thing are usually lame anyway, so who cares.

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spazzticsoda

I see it as a bunch of people who may feel some asexual feelings trying to figure things out. It's not that big of a deal. "Special snowflake' is just a word people have to try and hand-wave people exploring the diversity of orientations.

 

I do think that sexual people in general need to talk about the different ways  they experience their sexuality (even heterosexual people have a complicated orientation!)   , and asexuality lends itself to that, so some people are likely to slip into the asexual thing, even if it is not perfect for them.  Let it be known, I honestly don't care if someone who could be seen as sexual decides to go with demisexual or asexual or greysexual. Aseuxality gets weird anyway considering some people have hypersexual fantasy lives, but never engage in actual life and some asexuals kinda like sex. Hell for me, I have intense aesthetic attractions but I would never want to physically engage myself, but I might consider watching....Maybe that makes me vouyersexual and not really asexual? I don't freaking know.

 

I do think for language sake it is good to have common agreements at what gets adopted  This happens naturally anyway. Most of these sub-labels will not stick in time. This is like the whole 'they are going to make me use crazy pronouns' argument. Most people use he ,she, or they. These are the pronouns that are likely to stick.  A small minority maybe uses xi/xir,and you will probably get a fraction of people wanting something else. Maybe over time, others will be accepted, Who knows? Language is malleable.

 

I know that it's hard not to freak out , because the more labels get added on, the more the average person wants to reject it. The thing is your most vehement ' this is all stupid ! This is crazy!This is all just snowflake makebelieve!!!' is probably already against you,and just using all these 'crazy Tumblr words' to try and have a convenient excuse to tear it all down. I am actually afraid to be more specific in how I feel gender-wise because I don't want to be used as ammo against trans people who need the support. But I'm starting to realize that my feelings are not fake, and no amount of 'you're just trying to be special' is going to erase them.

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gisiebob

I think there is one thing I could add to this in opposition to someone who might argue that it would just be so much easier to prove those who are wrong, wrong.

 

we are not the asexuality police. they are also not the asexuality police

this works great for any us vs them!

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spazzticsoda

Basically I agree with your post. I think   discussion is healthy because it allows us to try and understand things. So someone coming by and saying 'I don't get this. Is this really real? I'm trying to understand' is okay. Telling someone they are a liar who is making it up is probably not okay. I think it's better not to get stuck on whether someone 'counts as asexual' or not. Discussing the finer points is good.  I do like to respond to posts with a 'you could just be a sexual person who experiences x' because I think it can be equally important to note that sexual people are not all one way either. My intention is to expand ideas about what sexuality entails , not to discredit someone who takes on the label of asexual.

 

 

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slice_of_pie

Snowfake: A disparaging term for a person who is seen as overly sensitive, fragile and self important.

 

Seems to me the snowflake in this scenario is the person who is too fragile to accept other people's sexual preferences and boundaries.

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Laplace
3 hours ago, J. Alfred Prufrock said:

That said, this thread is such a dogwhistle that it marks the target and debuffs their protection.

Do I spot a Darkest Dungeon reference 🤩?

 

In any case, I hate when people refer to asexuality as a special snowflake orientation cause it fundamentally goes against my desire to see asexuality accepted as a “normal” orientation. I’m not looking for special treatment. I’ll admit it’s hard not to get exasperated with all the offbranches and subcategories for every identity and orientation, but i feel that if people can just tolerate all the jargon thrown around, it really isn’t anything to get upset over. Also, I reallllly don’t care for an asexuality secret police that’s conducting purges to get rid of people who aren’t “asexual enough.” That said, I want people to really evaluate themselves honestly for their own sake so they don’t lock themselves into an identity that may not fit them.

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RosyIcepick

Western society has the unfortunate habit of beating human sexuality to death. I suspect the definition debates stem from the ridiculous need to meticulously add every aspect of biological and psychological experiences to the sciencia sexualis (au Foucault), i.e. reducing sex to nothing but science and confessions about sex. The thing about science is that it likes precise definitions, as they're easy to test, jot down, and stuff away in a folder that says "This is, unquestionably, how human sexuality is". But human sexuality has an incredible number of variables, such that if you really analyzed all of it, the words gay, straight, lesbian, bi, ace, etc. wouldn't begin to cut it. Humans experience sexuality in vastly different ways, and science doesn't like that many variables. Heck, we even learn in school that an experiment with too many variables probably won't be good.

 

So we're left with a handful of individuals arguing and bickering over what asexuality is, because they're trying to operationalize it, rather than compile the many different experiences of asexuality into something of an art, or ars erotica (also Foucault), i.e. the idea that there are many different ways of doing sex and sexuality, and no way is wrong or right, and all ways are valuable. Just like actual art... there's still so much argument over what the hell abstract art is, what counts as abstract, what if I can see definitive shapes in it, is it really abstract? But what's wrong with just taking in the painting and experiencing it? (Western society also has the unfortunate habit of trying to categorize everything to death)

 

My medical sociology professor told us that in history, older couples would just stop having sex and move on to other things, and nobody cared, nobody was upset about it. It just happened. I envision a future where society doesn't give a hoot what goes on or doesn't go on in whoever's bedroom. It just appreciates everyone's varying experiences without trying to shove it all into boxes. Arguing over definitions won't make an operational definition magically appear... if anything, it only supports the variability of sexuality.

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Telecaster68
Quote

Orientations havefuzzy boundaries, and won't always provide the certainty that identity politics requires 

I think this is the underlying problem. On the one hand, people on AVEN discuss their widely varying individual subjective sexual characteristics which don't often fit neatly into boxes, because that's part of what a support community does. On the other hand, AVEN's 'visibility' role means it has to present something comprehensible to the rest of the world. But 100,000 different experiences are too much for anyone to assimilate, so they get grouped into a bunch of ever-shifting, disputed labels in an attempt to represent the community fairly and comprehensibly. The number and transience of those labels then makes the whole community look weird and snowflakey to the very people they're supposed to be explaining it to. 

 

Identity politics is campaigning and campaigning needs simplicity - generally to the point that something can be represented inaccurately or partially. Gay rights or women's rights campaigns had simple, clear ideas to communicate but asexuality is based on an absence which has no consistent external appearance. The only way to derive a rallying message is to make it simple, and since simplicity conflicts with the support element, and large parts of the community put support before anything else (understandably), external image and therefore campaigning will always be secondary. 

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Nowhere Girl
7 hours ago, Pramana said:

Takeaway Idea


The definition debate is immature and animated by insecurity. Instead, we should focus on challenging the sexual assumption and building an inclusive community. 

I don't like the notion of a "special snowflake" (because I deeply believe that everyone is special), but I very much like the "takeaway idea". I believe that acceptance of nonsexual lifestyles is much more important than asexual visibility as such. I'm afraid that some discourse is moving in a direction indicating that only aces can have reasons to not desire sex. Just yesterday I've read a text about aces having sex and feeling uncomfortable about it and then realising that they don't have to after they discover asexuality - it is really frightening if without asexuality people should be expected to feel like they have to have sex. So I'm definitely for challenging the sexual assumption as priority.

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Deus Ex Infinity
11 hours ago, J. Alfred Prufrock said:

I will say that I can barely stand definition debates, but this is probably because I can't stand linguistic prescriptivists, and all definition debates seem to come from the perspective that words are naturally occurring with an objective meanings, not cultural creations capable of having different meanings in different contexts, which proceed to evolve divergently.

 

10 hours ago, TheAP said:

The notion that asexuality is a special snowflake orientation rests on illogical and bigoted assumptions: presuming, with no evidence, that everyone who does 1) and 2) is doing it to be special, and then generalizing it to all asexuals. We shouldn't listen to the bigots or throw other members of the community under the bus to pacify them. If people won't accept that someone doesn't want sex, it's not because of asexuals who say they want sex; it's because that person isn't respecting the other person's sexual preferences and boundaries.

I'm not much into definition debates either but it's still interesting to follow them once in a while. However it's a common fact that most people would always try to drag things into a negative spotlight if they can't/don't want to understand or accept it. So everyone outside common social sexual stereotypes would be jugded as "special snowflake" eventually. It seems as if any orientation except heterosexuality is treated as a matter of personal choice, rather than just a bloody given biological circumstance.

 

So yeah, I guess I'm a special snowflake then but totally proud of it :D 

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Pramana
On 6/12/2018 at 9:42 PM, J. Alfred Prufrock said:

That said, this thread is such a dogwhistle that it marks the target and debuffs their protection.

I must admit, I had to Google this lingo. 'Dogwhistle' has fast become one of my favourite concepts.

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Galactic Turtle
On 6/12/2018 at 9:17 PM, Pramana said:

Sexual assumption: the idea that everyone should be expected to have sex (especially in romantic relationships) unless it's biologically impossible for them to want sex. The problem with definition debates is that people are trying to redefine asexuality so that it's biologically impossible for asexuals to want sex, when instead what people should be doing is challenging the sexual assumption.

I know that all the movements and ideas surrounding sex positivity and sex education brought with it not only the message of "it's ok to have sex, lots of it, with lots of people, and also talk about it without societal backlash" but also the idea not only that everyone should be expected to have sex as you said but that everyone should want to have sex, that this is a universal goal that before society deemed too inappropriate to talk about. 

 

In the past I've had to sit down my sexual friends who felt distressed because their partners expected sex when they did not want to have sex or kissed them / pursued physical intimacy when they didn't really want it. I've had sexual friends who had sex even if they didn't actually want to out of a sense of obligation or to end an argument or to not be seen as a bad partner or whatever. I think the sexual assumption you're talking about is definitely an important topic. I also think that it is different from asexuality as it exists as an orientation.

 

I think it would be great to fully destigmatize not wanting sex (either all the time or most of the time or some of the time) and that within that conversation there's a space to mention asexuality but I by no means think this conversation should only consist of asexual people. I think it would have much more impact if sexual people joined the conversation too and you do see it sort of with the conversations surrounding consent. Instead what has happened is that various types of sexual people who are less sexual than whatever society has deemed "normal" start calling themselves asexual for not wanting sex some or most of the time. Instead, it might be a better conversation to talk about all the ways one can be sexual to get rid of this assumption that in order to be "normal" you must desire to have sex all the time particularly when you have romantic feelings for someone.

 

 

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uhtred

I don't think there is much point to definition debates either.   To me something only risks looking like "special snowflakes" if people are asking for something outside things that are specifically related to their orientation. 

 

For example: I see no problem at all with asexuals spreading the information that there are some people who simply do not desire sex and who are happy with that, so please don't try to "pressure" them into sex.  These people may want and be happy in relationships that do not include sex. 

 

It would only be special snowflake to me if asexuals were asking for *other* people to stop talking about sex because they were offended by it.   I haven't seen that to any significant extent. 

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paperbackreader
On 6/13/2018 at 6:05 AM, RoseGoesToYale said:

Western society has the unfortunate habit of beating human sexuality to death.

Ermm.... I'd argue that a lot of cultures elsewhere have also beaten fringe sexuality to death, so it doesn't just apply to western society? 

 

I didn't have a term for it for most of my life, but I was secure with who I was. Only a major shift and reaching a certain age made me reevaluate. And when I did, I was just thankful you guys existed, it was enough for me to know that other people had broadly similar experiences to me and on my way I went... 

 

On 6/13/2018 at 2:17 AM, Pramana said:

Whereby the problem of asexuality not being taken seriously is that when I tell people I'm asexual, they'll still expect me to want sex, and won't accept being asexual as a reason for not wanting sex. This insecurity is attributable to the sexual assumption. 

 

Sexual assumption: the idea that everyone should be expected to have sex (especially in romantic relationships) unless it's biologically impossible for them to want sex. The problem with definition debates is that people are trying to redefine asexuality so that it's biologically impossible for asexuals to want sex, when instead what people should be doing is challenging the sexual assumption.

I get why people may think asexuality won't be taken seriously, I feel it's more linked to immaturity. But it doesn't bother me that much whether it will be taken seriously or not. I'm cool with people needing to split hairs, and I'm cool with people tell me I'm a snowflake if that is what they feel. We can then debate about why. I'm not cool with people not giving me a job or throwing acid at my face because they think I'm a snowflake. I don't buy sexual assumption and a stock response for someone whom I meet who does is regardless of whether it's your expectation that I need to or should have sex or not in X situation, I don't want to, but I respect your opinion that that's what you believe. But you're not gonna change what I feel and think. That's me. If it bothers you so much what I think, you're welcome to come back to discuss when you invent a brainwashing machine. 

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Pramana
On 6/13/2018 at 1:05 AM, RoseGoesToYale said:

Western society has the unfortunate habit of beating human sexuality to death.

 

On 6/15/2018 at 3:37 AM, paperbackreader said:

Ermm.... I'd argue that a lot of cultures elsewhere have also beaten fringe sexuality to death, so it doesn't just apply to western society? 

I gather that it is more common for traditional societies to frame human sexuality according to the performance of social roles, whereas modern Western society favours fine-grained psychological analysis of the individual.

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paperbackreader

@Pramana I see. I think I took 'beaten' far more literally than you intended. 

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Pramana
20 minutes ago, paperbackreader said:

@Pramana I see. I think I took 'beaten' far more literally than you intended. 

Sadly, not an entirely unreasonable interpretation.

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