Hey you! You wanna help change the world?

YES YOU!

You have a unique opportunity to change the world.  At this very moment, an elite team of asexual activists is preparing to journey to Atlanta, GA.

Their mission:  Raise awareness of asexuality by hosting panel discussions and workshops and distributing pamphlets and other informational materials at Creating Change 2013.

But they can’t do it alone!  They need your help to get there and spread the word about asexuality.

Your mission (should you choose to accept it):   Watch the video and donate if you’re able.  Go here for complete details.  Then reblog, cross-post, tweet, like, share, retweet, or tattoo the QR code for the link to your forehead in order to spread the word.

First we take Atlanta, then…  THE WORLD!

If you’ve ever wished that more people knew about asexuality, this is how that will happen.  This kind of outreach will directly connect with the sorts of people who’ll help to get asexuality into the mainstream consciousness.   It’s activists and educators and organizers.  It’s politicians and musicians. It’s your town’s LGBTQ*/GSRM group. This is visibility at its core.  Big things might come out of this, and if you donate now, you can tell people that you helped make it happen!

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

That’s right, if you donate today, one of these fabulous prizes can be yours!

  • An Ace Flag Button!
  • A Postcard Signed by David Jay, SwankIvy, SaraBeth Brooks, Siggy, and Other Super-Awesome Acey People!
  • Your Choice of Asexuality Themed T-Shirt!
  • Cupcakes!

What more could you possibly ask for?

ACT NOW!  LIMITED TIME ONLY!  WHILE SUPPLIES LAST!

Again, if you’re interested, go check out the project page for details.

(A bit of disclosure:  I’m not affiliated with the Make Atlanta Asexy campaign.  I’m not an organizer, I’m not a panel member, I’m not even going to Atlanta.  I just think it’s important.)

Here’s the QR code in case you needed it for that tattoo…

Asexuality Questionnaire #4.3: Community and Visibility

If you have not already done so, please stop off at the main questionnaire page for important information about the intent of these questionnaires.

Thank you for your interest, but this survey is now closed!  We are no longer accepting responses at this time.  If you’re curious, here’s what the questions were:

  1. Do you feel that it would be valuable for a celebrity or other famous person to come out as asexual?
  2. Do you feel that it would be valuable for a TV show or a movie to have an openly asexual character?
  3. Do you have any ideas for asexuality awareness/education/etc. that you would like to see someone create?  Have you ever tried to create them yourself?
  4. Do you feel like there is anything missing in the asexual community?
  5. Where would you like to see the asexual community in five years?  Ten years?  Twenty?

[wpsqt name=”Community and Visibility Part 3″ type=”survey”]

Asexuality Questionnaire #4.1: Community and Visibility

If you have not already done so, please stop off at the main questionnaire page for important information about the intent of these questionnaires.

Thank you for your interest, but this survey is now closed!  We are no longer accepting responses at this time.  If you’re curious, here’s what the questions were:

  1. Have you ever participated in a “pride” event of some kind? If not, do you plan to do so in the future?  If you do not plan to do so, why not?
  2. Have you ever participated in an asexuality awareness or visibility event of some kind? If not, do you plan to do so in the future?  If you do not plan to do so, why not?
  3. Do you have any “ace pride” items that you display in public, such as t-shirts or other clothing, black rings, nail polish, bumper stickers, jewelry, signs, black-gray-white-purple items of some kind?  Has anyone ever commented on them?
  4. Do you feel it is important that you be a “visible asexual”, that is, someone who actively engages in asexuality awareness activities of some form?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  Do you want to be visible, but are afraid to be?
  5. What is your opinion of various symbols related to asexuality, such as the ace flag, the AVEN logo, the Ace of Spades, or the half-filled heart?

[wpsqt name=”Community and Visibility Part 1″ type=”survey”]

Asexuality Questionnaire #4.2: Community and Visibility

If you have not already done so, please stop off at the main questionnaire page for important information about the intent of these questionnaires.

Thank you for your interest, but this survey is now closed!  We are no longer accepting responses at this time.  If you’re curious, here’s what the questions were:

  1. Do you participate in any online groups that are asexuality related?  If not, do you plan to do so in the future?  If you do not plan to do so, why not?
  2. Do you participate in any offline groups that are asexuality related? If not, do you plan to do so in the future?  If you do not plan to do so, why not?
  3. Have you ever been involved with an LGBT/GSM/Queer group in any way?  Did you reveal your asexuality to them?  Were they welcoming or not?
  4. Have you ever met another asexual in person?
  5. If you want increased visibility of asexuality, what do you want it for?

[wpsqt name=”Community and Visibility Part 2″ type=”survey”]

The Asexuality Flag

This is the Asexuality Flag.

The need for a flag was driven primarily by the desire to have a symbol that belongs to all of us, something that we could use to identify as ace and represent asexuality with that was not tied to a specific group. Prior to its adoption, people would use things like the AVEN triangle or a half-filled heart, but those had problems which prevented their wider adoption. The AVEN triangle is, well, the AVEN triangle. It’s the logo of a single website that not every asexual person is affiliated with. The half-filled heart implies romance, which meant that many aromantics were uncomfortable using it.

In the Summer of 2010, a number of asexuality sites, led by users on AVEN, came up with a number of designs for an asexuality flag, then held a multi-stage vote to determine the winner.

The selected design was created by AVEN user standup, and first posted at 4:36 PM on June 30th, 2010.

Some of the other designs included hearts and spades and triangles and all manner of other symbols.  Some of the designs looked like country flags.  In the end, the simple, four-bar design was chosen.  This design avoids the unwanted connotations that specific symbols like a triangle or heart might have, it avoids any hint of national affiliation, and perhaps most importantly, it fits in with the striped designs of most other GSM pride flags.

(Plus, it’s really easy to draw.)

The four colors all have meanings:

  • Black:  Asexuality.
  • Grey: Grey-Asexuality and Demisexuality.
  • White: Non-asexual partners and allies.
  • Purple: Community.

Since the flag was selected in 2010, its use has exploded.  You can get buttons and bumper stickers and clothes with the flag on it.  It’s been seen at pride parades around the world, and some flag makers now offer it for sale.  Many asexuality related websites or blogs now incorporate the flag into their design.  And, of course, people have even made ace flag cakes.  Additionally, the black-grey-white-purple color scheme has been adopted by many aces as a way of indicating their asexuality.  I’ve seen ace shirts, ace nail polish, ace friendship bracelets, ace headbands, and ace scarves.  Even the logo of this site incorporates these four colors.

For more information:

You can trace the progression of designs and the voting process through these threads over at AVEN:

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/40768-flag/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/51646-asexual-flag-thread/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/51751-asexual-flag-voting-first-round/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/51825-discussion-20-asexual-flag/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/53110-asexual-flag-round-three/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/53435-asexual-flag-and-the-winner-is/

http://www.asexuality.org/wiki/index.php?title=The_asexual_flag

Here’s some shots of the flag in the wild:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaV8nhhNQyE

http://www.flickr.com/photos/levitte/6020404486/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevieontario/5902251358

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lgf/6086752311/

http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-article.php?yyyy=2010&mm=10&dd=10&nav_id=70193

http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2011/06/asexuality-at-sf-pride-2011.html

 

Asexuality: Myths, Misconceptions and Other Things That Are Just Plain Wrong

Since asexuality is rather unknown, it is subject to a lot of misinformation and ignorance. Many of these misconceptions can be offensive and hurtful.  All of these are things that people have actually said to or about asexual people.  It’s time to set the record straight.

Asexuals don’t exist.

I’m asexual.  I wrote this.  You’re reading this.  Therefore this exists, therefore I exist, therefore asexuals exist.

QED.

Asexuality is the same as celibacy.

Asexuality describes someone’s sexual orientation, that is, that they do not experience sexual attraction to anyone.  Celibacy describes someone’s behavior, that is, that they do not have sex with anyone.  Orientation is not behavior, attraction is not action.  Celibacy and asexuality are neither mutually exclusive nor mutually linked.  It is possible for an asexual person to not have sex and be celibate, and it’s also possible for an asexual to have sex and not be celibate.

I do consider myself to be celibate, as I have not engaged in any sexual activity with anyone else in over nine years.

Asexuality is a choice.

Asexuality is not a choice.  It is a sexual orientation, like heterosexuality or homosexuality, and like those orientations, it cannot be turned on or off on a whim.

I never woke up one morning, thinking, “You know, I’m tired of being turned on by people.  I think I’m going to stop that now.”  I’ve always been this way.

Asexual people can’t fall in love.

Many asexuals can feel the full range of romantic emotions, from a slight crush to true love.  It’s just devoid of a sexual component.  Asexuals are not limited to platonic love, either.  When an ace feels love, it can be every bit as complex and deep as the romantic love that anyone else feels.

There is a concept of romantic (or affectional) orientation, which describes who a person is romantically attracted to.  Romantic orientation is separate from sexual orientation, although in many people, their romantic and sexual orientations do happen to coincide.  Common romantic orientations include heteroromantic (romantic attraction toward the opposite gender), homoromantic (romantic attraction toward the same gender), bi/panromantic (romantic attraction toward both/all genders), and aromantic (romantic attraction toward no gender).

Asexual people don’t/can’t have sex.

Most asexual people can have sex, and some of them do.  I have.  Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction, not a lack of sexual ability.  Asexuals are physically and physiologically indistinguishable from other people, in other words, in most cases, the equipment is all there and in working order.  If an asexual person is incapable of having sex, it is usually due to some other condition, and not necessarily related to their asexuality.

Asexuality is just a phase that you’ll grow out of.

I’m 32 and have never been sexually attracted to anyone, not even a naked woman standing in front of me, touching my junk and inviting me to reciprocate.  How exactly can that be considered a “phase”?  When am I going to grow out of it?

It’s just a hormone problem.

Most asexuals have hormones within normal ranges.  Asexuals who have started taking hormone supplements for some reason have reported no change in their orientation.

That’s not what “asexual” means.

And “gay” only means “happy” and “straight” only means “not curved”.  Words in the English language can have multiple meanings and can change over time.  Deal with it.

Getting laid will fix that.

First of all, there’s nothing to fix because we’re not broken.  Secondly, no, no it won’t.  I was asexual before I had sex and I’m still asexual now.  Many other aces who’ve had sex have had the same experience.  Sex wasn’t some super-awesome life-changing milestone that upended my worldview.

The corollary to this misconception is “Getting laid by me will fix that”, which ranks somewhere up around “Know what’d look good on you?  Me.” on the list of dumbest ideas ever for pickup lines.

You can’t know for sure unless you’ve had sex.

You don’t have to have sex to know what your sexual orientation is.  Most people, when they proceed into puberty (and in some cases, even before then), will naturally start to feel attracted to other people without having to engage in any kind of sexual activity at all.  They’ll know that they’re straight or gay or bi or what have you and they typically don’t have to hold try-outs to know which team they play for.  Asexual people are the same way.  They’ll know that they don’t feel that spark of sexual attraction, that they’re somehow not quite straight or not quite gay, that they’re different from everyone else, and they don’t need to have sex to confirm it.

I’m virtually certain that had I known what asexuality was before I had sex, I would have identified that way without needing sex to be certain.  As it was, I didn’t learn about asexuality for years after I had sex, but I knew that I was different.

Asexual people don’t/can’t masturbate.

In general, asexuals can masturbate and many do.  Asexuals generally don’t have impaired genital function, which means the parts typically work, and when the parts work, they can feel good to use.  Aces who masturbate will do so for reasons ranging from relieving tension to wanting the pleasure of an orgasm.  Of course, masturbation is a personal choice, and while many asexual people will masturbate, many do not.

I masturbate fairly regularly.

All asexuals are virgins.

Nope, sorry.  I had my v-card punched years ago.  Many other asexuals have also had sex.  Some have regular sexual partners, some are parents.  There’s no virginity requirement for being asexual, just as there’s no loss of virginity requirement for being heterosexual.

Asexuals are hermaphrodites.

Being intersex is completely unrelated to asexuality.  The various conditions grouped under the umbrella of “intersex” are all physical conditions.  Asexuality is not physical.  However, it is possible for an intersex person to be asexual.

(By the way, the word “hermaphrodite” is generally considered offensive, so don’t say that.)

Asexuality is the same as being a transsexual or transgender.

Asexuality is not a gender identity issue.  Most aces are cis-gendered, but some are trans, others are agendered, genderfluid, or what have you.  Asexuality only describes who someone is sexually attracted to (namely, no one), and has nothing to do with the gender they are.

I happen to be a cis-gendered male.

Asexuals just haven’t met the right person yet.

This assertion offends many asexuals.  They’ve seen thousands upon thousands of people in their life and have not been sexually attracted to any of them.  This claim acts to invalidate and deny a part of their core identity.  It’s a bit like going up to a heterosexual male and saying “You could really be gay, you know.  Maybe you just haven’t met the right man yet.  Keep trying, you’ll find him someday.”

Everyone feels like that sometimes.

I know that non-asexual people don’t walk around in an endless horny cloud of lust all day, every day, and that everyone feels like this sometimes.  But I feel like this all the time.  I’ve never found anyone attractive.  I don’t know what it’s like to think that someone’s hot.  I’ve never passed a woman on the street and had my mind start turning through all the things I’d like to do with her in bed.  I don’t relate to the manifestations of sexual attraction that I see around me every day.

Ever.

And that’s what makes me different.  That’s what makes me asexual.

Asexuals are really just gays in denial.

Homosexual people are sexually attracted toward people of the same sex.  Asexual people are sexually attracted to neither sex.  Asexual people are not hiding their attraction, they simply do not have any attraction to hide.

I have never felt any attraction, sexual or romantic, toward other men.

Asexual people are just afraid of sex or are disgusted by sex.

Some asexuals are afraid of or are disgusted by sex.  Some non-asexual people are, too.  Such feelings are not tied to one’s sexual orientation.  There are also many asexuals who are sex positive.  They’ve had sex or are open to the idea of having sex in the right situation.  I’m in this latter group.  I’ve done it before and I’d be willing to do it again in the right situation.

Asexual people are victims of some sexual trauma in their past.

The vast majority of asexual people have never had any kind of sexual trauma.  Most asexuals will be highly offended by someone trying to pin their lack of sexual attraction on some sort of unspoken, possibly repressed event.  And if they are victims of some past trauma, they’re generally not going to appreciate it when you bring it up and try to use it to invalidate their identity.

They have a pill that’ll fix that.

They have pills that’ll fix physical ailments, such as hormonal imbalances or blood flow issues.  Asexuality is not a physical ailment.  There’s no pill that’ll make an asexual start experiencing sexual attraction.  It would be like there being a pill that would turn a gay person straight.

Asexuality is caused by a brain tumor.

Hour-long medical procedural TV shows should not be considered reliable sources regarding sexual orientations.  Moving on…

Asexuals don’t/can’t have orgasms.

The majority of asexuals have normal, fully functioning sexual organs.  This means that the majority of asexuals have the capacity to orgasm.  Many asexuals do have orgasms, and often enjoy them.  Certainly not all asexuals have had orgasms, and some do not have fully functioning sexual organs, however, those cases are not due to asexuality.  Asexuality is only a description of sexual orientation, and in no way attempts to describe sexual ability.

I do have orgasms and I like them.

Asexuals are all homophobes.

This is categorically false.  The vast majority of asexuals are LGBT+ friendly.  There is absolutely nothing inherent in asexuality that minimizes, dismisses, invalidates, passes judgment on, or attacks homosexuality in any way.  Asexuality is another sexual orientation that coexists alongside every other sexual orientation.

Asexuals are all super-religious and against sex.

Asexuality has nothing to do with one’s religious beliefs.  Asexuality is not a form of abstinence, it’s not the result of a purity pledge, and it’s not that we’re “saving ourselves”.  It’s equally possible for an asexual person to be a hardcore born-again no-sex-til-marriage brand of Christian as it is for an asexual person to be an atheist who enjoys casual sex with strangers on the weekends.

Asexuals all hate sex and everyone who has sex.

Asexuality should not be confused with antisexuality.  Most asexuals have no problem with sex.  Some don’t like the idea of sex when it comes to themselves, but are typically indifferent when it comes to other people.  Some even enjoy having sex.  Asexuality is merely a sexual orientation, it doesn’t have any effect one’s opinion on sexual activity.

I actually kinda liked sex.  It was a bit boring, but at least it felt good.

Asexuals are naïve and don’t know anything about sex.

Asexuality is not somehow a function of a lack of information about sex.  There are plenty of people out there who know very little about sex besides what goes where, and they’re not all asexual.  Conversely, there are plenty of asexuals who know quite a bit about sex and sexual practices, even though they’re not necessarily all that interested in trying them out.

I happen to have a rather sizable library on the various facets of human sexuality, from textbooks and research papers to illustrated sex manuals.  I have a bit of an anthropological curiosity on the subject, probably from my repeated attempts to figure out where I fit.

Asexuals are just faking it for attention.

How is someone who’s in the closet and agonizing over their identity “faking it for attention”?  Most aces are in the closet or not very open about it precisely because they fear the sort of attention they’ll get.  All of these things in this list are actual things that people have said to asexual people.

Certainly, there are some people who will claim to be asexual because it’s trendy.  But there are also people who pretend to be gay for some reason, and no one tries to use them as evidence that disproves the existence of homosexuality in its entirety.

In real life, I hardly ever mention that I’m asexual, as it’s not typically relevant to the day-to-day experience of a software engineer.  The most attention I’ve gotten from it have been a few awkward (yet positive) conversations with my parents and a guy at work saying “Yeah, we all kinda figured that.”  So clearly, that’s what I’m going for with this.

There are no asexual men.

There aren’t?  Man, and I was so sure that I existed, too…  Do I have to take back my “QED”?

Asexual men do exist, contrary to the stereotypes.  I’m one of them.  David Jay is, as well.  He’s one of the most prominent asexual visibility activists around.  He founded AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, the largest asexual community on the Internet. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

And we’re far from the only two around.

Asexuality is a moral stand against sex.

Asexuality is nothing more than a sexual orientation.  It’s not inherently for or against sex or people who have sex.  When an asexual says something like “I don’t look at people that way” or “I don’t understand why people think sex is so important”, it’s not a value judgment, it’s not an attack.  It’s just a statement of fact. They literally don’t feel that way, they don’t understand it.

It’s also worth repeating that asexuality is not a choice, so it can’t be a decision that one makes to stand against anything.

Asexuality is evolution’s response to overpopulation.

I’ve seen this idea come up several times.  There are so many things wrong with this idea that I don’t know where to begin…  The concept of “overpopulation” is one of sustainability, not of actual, physical, overpopulation.  I have plenty to eat and plenty of space to live in, as did my parents when I was born.  Evolution didn’t come by one day and say “Well, there’s famine thousands of miles away in Africa right now and if you project out the current growth rates and consumption trends, there’s gonna be problems everywhere in about a hundred years, so, you know what?  I think I’m gonna make you not be interested in women.”  That’s just not how evolution works.  There’s the whole bit where advantageous traits are passed along throughout the generations, because they assist in successful reproduction, even if indirectly.  If there’s a trait that makes an organism not interested in reproduction, then that trait doesn’t get passed on, so it can’t become common within a population.  (On top of that, it doesn’t really matter if something was done to lower my effective fertility, since there’s plenty of people with reality TV shows that are more than making up for me.)

If evolution actually were responding to overpopulation, it would probably just make us smaller so we consume less.  Evolution typically doesn’t get much of a chance to respond to overpopulation, though, because famine and disease are far more effective instruments of population control which can eliminate the problem in a single generation.

Asexuals are all just confused teenage girls.

My driver’s license disagrees with this statement on multiple counts. Many asexuals are not teenagers. Many asexuals are not girls. And even those asexuals who are teenage girls tend not to be confused. Most people who identify as asexual do not do so on a whim or because we somehow just can’t recognize what sexual attraction is.  An asexual person generally examines their life very carefully before coming out, so you can be fairly certain that when someone says “I’m asexual”, the last thing they are is confused about how they feel.

You’re just single and looking for an excuse for why you’re afraid to date.

Except for those asexuals who aren’t single, or who genuinely don’t care about dating, or who really wouldn’t mind dating if the right person came along…

Asexuals hate their gender.

Asexuality has nothing to do with gender identity.  There are male asexuals and female asexuals and transgender asexuals and cisgender asexuals and agender asexuals and genderqueer asexuals and neutrois asexuals and all sorts of other gender asexuals that I haven’t mentioned here.  Some of them dislike their gender, some of them are happy with it, and some of them don’t care.  And none of them are the gender they are because they’re asexual and none of them are asexual because of the gender they are.

That word… I do not think it means what you think it means.

“Asexual.”

I’m guessing that many of you reading know what “asexual” means, since my audience is pretty much exclusively ace or ace-friendly.

Asexual:  One who does not experience sexual attraction.

With minor variations, that’s what we all here understand it to mean, right?

And I’m sure we’ve all come across people who use the word differently, from the strict biologist talking about fungi, to the “I wish my homework were asexual” meme posters, from the people using it as a synonym for celibate, to the angsty 16 year old who’s decided to become asexual because boys suck.

Clearly, not everyone uses the word as we use it.  I would say that most people don’t even know about the definition that we use.

So, why is it, then, that whenever anyone remotely famous uses the word “asexual” to describe themselves, we automatically assume that they mean it the same way we do and embrace them?  How do we know that they’re not using it like the angsty 16 year old does?  How do we know that they don’t mean that they’re actively choosing to ignore their sexual attraction and not have sex?

This has been bothering me ever since I first went looking for a list of famous asexuals. It seemed like so many of the people on the list were included because they’ve never had sex or because of some tenuous link of the person having used the word “asexual” in some interview at some point long ago.   There’s usually not enough context because the interviewer doesn’t quote them directly, or the way they describe themselves is ambiguous and seems to imply celibacy or abstinence more than asexuality as we know it.  In one case (which I won’t mention by name), the cited justification for claiming that the person is asexual comes from an almost embarrassingly incoherent sentence which I would sooner take as evidence that they’re using a variety of controlled substances than as evidence that they’re asexual.

I understand that we need a public face, someone to point to and say, “Yeah, I’m just like them”.  It’s important, it’s valuable, it give us immediate legitimacy.  Clearly we’re not alone and not making it up if that person is one of us.

But what if they’re not?

I’m writing this because of the reaction to the articles about Tim Gunn reporting that he hasn’t had sex for 29 years.  People in the tag are screaming about how the articles are somehow erasing his orientation and denying his identity because they refer to him as “celibate”, rather than “asexual”.  Yes, he’s described himself as “asexual” in his book, but what if he didn’t mean it in the same way we mean it?  Is there anywhere that he’s made it clear exactly what he meant by the word “asexual”?  If he used the word asexual the same way we did, then we have every right to get upset over the way the articles erase his orientation.  However, at the same time, if he’s not using that word the way we’re using it, then we have no right to assign him an identity that’s not his.

I’ve only seen one unambiguously, confirmably asexual-as-we-mean-it famous person, and that’s the writer Keri Hulme, talking about it in this article, complete with a shout-out to AVEN.  Are there others who are definitely using the word asexual in the same way we do?