This session talked about some of the challenges and findings of the Asexual Census. It is an on-line survey of around a hundred questions, and it got about 10K responses last year. Because it is online and self-selecting, this can lead to some biases: People have to have Internet access, be involved in spaces where it’s publicized, be willing and interested in sharing information, etc.
- Asking questions a different way can change the result. For example, a radio button forces a binary choice, where there may be overlap. Multiple choice can allow for contradictory responses. Freeform text can be overwhelming and confusing.
- Skipping the question is not the same as deliberately leaving the question blank, but adding a “None of the above” response can change things.
- The survey is for turning people into data. It’s nice to be heard and recognized and understood, but that’s not the point.
- There is a high number of non-binary people in the ace community, so make sure your activism includes them.
- What’s up with the “low” number of ace men in the survey? Is that a sign that ace men can’t discover asexuality? Don’t want to take the survey? Or are ace men actually more rare?
- Repulsed people are 3x more prevalent than favorable people, so make sure your activism includes repulsed people.
- There is a forthcoming paper on rates of depression amongst asexuals.
- There should be an aro census, but reaching aro people is a challenge. If you target the aro community exclusively, you’ll miss many aro-ace people who aren’t in the aro circles. If you target ace communities, you’ll be overwhelmed by aro aces and it may not be truly representative.
This was mostly a presentation of the appearance of asexuality in articles from ages past. Some of the earliest were from the late 1800s.
Almost all of them were using asexual in a negative way. Most were misogynistic. Many were worried about the utter horrors that would be unleashed if gasp women were allowed to vote. It felt a lot like an accidental trip into the comment section…
One of the more interesting parts was a series of columns from a doctor in the 60s/70s who talked about asexuality in ways that we would recognize today, and was generally positive in what he wrote. He even had a section in a book where he talked about it.
I hope that this material all comes out someday because it was fascinating. I also hope someone writes a book on it all…
(Note: Session 3 was a working meeting and there’s no summary for it.)
- People were worried about negative reactions when reaching out to queer groups, but negative reactions are rare.
- Being ignored is common, but don’t assume intent behind being ignored. It’s possible the email was lost, the coordinator was busy, etc. If you’re ignored, try again.
- When looking for strategies for dealing with anti-ace people, look for strategies for dealing with TERFs, because they’re usually the same people, same tactics.
- Remember that you often can’t change the minds of entrenched assholes, so focus on those who haven’t been corrupted by hate yet.
- Block liberally. You don’t owe assholes your time or energy.
- Online, people are horrible. Off-line, people are usually accepting and welcoming.
- Be visible if you can be. Many ways to be visible, stickers, shirts, marching in a parade, casually mentioning it to people. Having an ace presence matters, it shows people we exist and shows other aces that we exist.
- You’re not responsible for completely educating others, but guiding them can help. Have a set of websites, videos, etc., personally curated content that’s relevant to you, and pass that along to people who are interested. Don’t have them do their own research or just drop them at the AVEN forums and wish them luck, because that won’t help.
- Sometimes the upper levels of a group may be bureaucratic and resist inclusion, but lower levels are often supportive and recognize the need.
- Hosting a brown bag at a local queer org can be helpful for reaching out.
- Many queer groups want to be more ace inclusive but don’t know how.
- Don’t assume that if a group leaves out the “A” that they’re being deliberately exclusive. Sometimes they think the Q or the + is enough. Sometimes they haven’t updated their website in years. Sometimes they just don’t understand but are willing to.
- Sometimes just being there matters. “We’re here and that’s all there is to it.”
- Sexual liberation means nothing if it doesn’t include the freedom to say “no”.
The second session I attended was a combination session. The first half was about using fanfiction as a primary source for asexuality research by Jasmine Stork. The second part was a presentation by Dr. Ianna Hawkins Owen on Black asexual silence and the figure of the “Mammy”.
Asexuality Research in Academia
- A lot of research ignores content from the community because it’s “just for fun”, but there is significant value in this material.
- Online spaces and overlaps between them are largely ignored.
- Stork reviewed fanfiction on AO3, using the “Asexual Spectrum” umbrella tag. This tag is community sourced, with community members making connections between related tags.
- Shibboleths are beliefs and practices, clues, signals, and references, used to indicate inclusion or exclusion from a group, and also useful for discussing in-group differences. Cake, flag colors, etc.
- Example: Black/gray/white/purple color scheme is recognized by aces, hourglass symbol recognized as “Black Widow” by Marvel fans, recognition of both puts people in “Ace Marvel Fans” group, where these will go over the heads of people not in group.
- People have energy for doing things that they like and that other people like.
- Fanfiction can be used as an outreach tool. Write a story about Black Widow and Black Widow fans will read it, but you’ve piggybacked a little bit of asexuality along for the ride. Now those readers have learned about asexuality, even though they weren’t seeking it out.
- Authors are often clear to say “this is one example, but not the only possible manifestation.”
- Race does not get much attention. Main characters almost all white, side characters mostly white, even in places like Africa or The Bronx.
- Representation isn’t just in fan fiction. It can be in other media, like podcasts, videos, blogs, etc. Main topic is a movie or whatever, so that gets eyeballs, but subtopic can be ace/aro stuff
- This is all work, and this work can help academics do their job, because you’ve been doing it already.
Dr. Ianna Hawkins Owen’s talk was an exploration of Black asexual silence and the image of the Mammy, explored through the lens of a series of paintings. It was a powerful presentation, and one that I am completely unequipped to be able to summarize adequately. (Frankly, the world does not need another clueless white guy talking about things he doesn’t understand.) So, I’m trying to find another summary to point you at, one that would be more accurate representation of what was said than anything I could write up. I’ll update this post if I find one. In the mean time, I recommend you track down some of Dr. Hawkins Owen’s other work, as much of it touches on similar themes.
This was a session for group organizers to trade ideas for ace/aro meetup groups. Here were a few of those ideas:
- You don’t always have to talk about asexuality at every meeting all the time. Sometimes the meetup can just be a meetup.
- Have a variety of activities: Dinners, game nights, movies, karaoke, food court get-togethers, discussion groups, new member welcomes, book club, potluck, etc.
- Consistently have events, and plan events for the future. People are more likely to attend something if it looks like the group is active.
- Specifically advertise some events as New Member Events, or have New Member time carved out of another event. This specifically invites people who haven’t come to something before a reason to drop by.
- Occasionally have targeted, specific discussion topics, planned in advance. This will give people who are interested in that topic a reason to drop in.
- Talk about your other events. At your karaoke meetups, mention the monthly discussion group, etc.
- Encourage other people to organize events. The more events, the better, and the wider range of events and wider geographic area they cover, the better.
- Personal connections with organizers lead to more popular events and a more active group overall.
- Have events of different sizes. Sometimes a 6 person dinner is what people want. Sometimes a 30 person discussion group is what people want.
- Asking for donations is fine, but asking for dues would exclude people who can’t/won’t pay. Tie the donation requests to specific events, like “We need $300 to march in Pride” or “Our meeting space is $30 a month.
- Use on-line tools. Have a website, Facebook, Meetup, etc. You can use Rabbit for a simulated movie night or Discord for a group chat.