If you happen to find yourself in a forum that discusses mainly the subjects of “watching porn”, “masturbation”, “kinks and fetishes”, “yaoi fanfiction”, “body fluids” and “jokes about sex”, what would you assume the forum’s topic was? Probably not that it is the “official” asexuality forum, right? Neither would I. But a majority of the self-proclaimed “asexuals” on AVEN seems to see it differently and happily posts away. Now, there are so many problems with that – and other things – on AVEN that I have a hard time to know where to begin. Mind you, saying any of these things on AVEN self will only result in warnings and bans, so it’s probably a pointless rant anyway.
Thing is, AVEN is supposed to be the first address for information about asexuality. It’s the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, after all. Unlike other minorities – gay or transsexual people, for example – asexuals have to deal with far less open discrimination. The biggest issue is not being taken serious. If you tell people you’re not attracted to anyone, most will tell you that it’s “just a phase”, you haven’t met “the right person” yet and similar things. People simply don’t believe it’s really a thing. And I can see how it is confusing to them, if a majority of the world’s population has a need for sexual intimacy. It’s easier to relate to a homosexual person, who has other preferences than the hetero-majority, but still desires the same basic thing. Asexuals don’t and they are rare – estimations speak of 1 % of the world’s population – and therefore aren’t really “visible”. The worst kind of visibility is the kind that reinforces the “it’s just a phase”, “you haven’t met the right person” and “you’re just frigid/ill/depressed” thoughts. And that is exactly what the AVEN forum does.
I am asexual. And not even I can take it serious what’s going on there. I shake my head at nearly every posting made there. I should feel welcome, understood and among likeminded people there, but I don’t.
One reason may be that I’m not a teenage girl. Or a teenage boy, at least. Excuse my bluntness, but at age 15, you are not “totally certain” about anything. Not about who you are, what you want or what your sexual orientation is. At that age, you just hit puberty. Of course you are confused about many things, and of course a lot things are new and have to be figured out over time. Yet teenagers are by far the most outspoken and “visible” asexuals. With the ridicolous AVEN policy “use any label you see fit; sexuality is fluid, if it doesn’t feel right anymore in a few years, just take a different label”, that is the perfect breeding ground for “it’s just a phase”. How can people take asexuality serious as an orientation if the asexuals they see or know just drop the label at age 17 after “meeting the right person”? That confirms that it was “just a phase”. Are we such a minority that we have to hand out our label to everyone, if it applies or not, just to get “members” for our exclusive club? That seems to be the AVEN policy. I don’t see what would be wrong about telling people “yes, you are indeed too young to know; wait a few years until you figure things out”. I don’t see why people would need a label – any label – so bad.
This problem is closely related to “OMAI I’m so Aspie!” Every third AVEN poster claims to have Asperger’s Syndrome, a rare personality disorder (bipolar is quite popular this year) or both. Confused, moody teenagers running around and claiming various medical conditions for themselves; like trophies to brag with, results in people not taking the conditions serious anymore. And people who actually have them will be seen as “just another poser who wants attention” – instead of getting the help they need.
But dare to say that on AVEN. There’s a ultra super duper political correctness policy, too. You have to be tolerant about everything. I often wonder if these people are really that far gone and actually really tolerate these things, or if they just nod and think “what a freak” to themselves. Let me give you an example. This documentary deals with very, very confused people who believe that they have telepathic powers that enable them to communicate with dead objects, mostly buildings of various types. They have romantic and sexual relationships with these objects. (In their heads, anyway.) It includes people actually being married to the Eiffel Tower, the Berlin Wall and a rollercoaster. The average person, no matter if hetero-, homo- or bisexual will likely react with “what the fuck?” or “these poor, sick people”. Not AVEN. The AVEN reaction is “oh, interesting, I wonder if they could be considered asexual too, since they aren’t attracted to people”. Yup, let’s go ahead and hold our umbrella over every weirdo’s head, simply overlook that they have a shitload of mental issues and embrace them into our family. Seriously?
And it’s not limited to people who are sexually attracted to freaking buildings. According to AVEN, it is totally possible – hell, even fairly common – for asexuals to have kinks and fetishes. All while not feeling sexual attraction. That’s an oxymoron to me – if you’re not attracted to anything or anyone, how would you have a fetish? A fetish is something certain people require to achieve sexual satisfaction. They are attracted to whatever their fetish is. You can hardly have a foot fetish and not feel sexual attraction at the same time. Except on AVEN, where the senseless is the norm.
AVEN users can do a damn lot things that you would consider connected to sexual attraction “in a non-sexual way”. For example, discuss totally non-sexual BDSM fantasies about popular actors and fictional characters, who you are attracted to “in a non-sexual way”. Or read and write yaoi smut fanfiction about them “in a non-sexual way”. Talk about your compulsive, non-sexual masturbation habits. Brag with how you are, out of all your friends, the most perverted one – in a non-sexual way, of course. Find likeminded, non-sexual people who share your non-sexual furry guro fetish. Or share the non-sexual joy and reasons to watch non-sexual hardcore porn.
Doesn’t make sense to you? Same here. Whenever I visit AVEN, as an asexual person, I feel like I’m entering the seventh circle of kink hell; the part of purgatory where the most obsessively horny perverts are thrown. Reading all that, I can totally see how asexuality isn’t taken serious and looks like it’s a new trendy term invented by teenage girls that are horribly, horribly curious about sex, but not quite ready to explore it in person: “just a phase”.
It is also curious how all the “non-sexual” obsessions seem to evolve around the same actors and characters every other fangirl is obsessed with. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but there is no difference between the fan art section of DeviantArt (aka Fangirl Hell), Fanfiction.net (aka 9th Circle of Hell) and AVEN – it’s full of teenagers lusting over the same people. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. House, Loki, “Sheldon from Big Bang Theory”, Dr. Who… just the AVEN population drools “in a non-sexual way”. Yes, they really add that a LOT.
And last but not least, there is the issue of the ever-returning “Am I asexual because x?” topics, that are heavily discussed whenever they pop up. “Am I asexual because I was abused as a child?” “Am I asexual because I have a hormone imbalance?” “Am I asexual because (whatever)?” What message does that send? That not even asexuals believe their orientation is a real orientation. That it is something “bad” or “wrong” that needs to be “fixed”. (Many of these topics come in the disguise of “How can I be fixed?”) People usually don’t question things that they are aware of, yet don’t see as “bad”. Who really spends time to ponder “Why am I red haired?” or “Why do I have blue eyes?” People acknowledge they are, but they aren’t trying to “fix” it, except maybe dyeing their hair or wear contacts, if they would rather be different. No-one loses sleep over the question “Why do I NOT have cancer?” or “Why did my house NOT burn down?” Permanently pondering what the hell is “wrong” and how it can be “fixed” just says that people do NOT think of their orientation as legitimate and really just that – an orientation like any other. To me, it’s just the way it is. I couldn’t change it if I tried or wanted anyway, just like I can’t magically make myself another ethnicity. And it’s a waste of time to try. I rather spend my time to think about things that are possible. And in the end, my sexual orientation – or lack of one, if you will – is a pretty small part of who I am. I see no need to poke around in this tiny fraction every waking moment, because there are simply things that are by far more important to me.
The interesting part is: I’m not alone with these views. I know other asexuals – romantics, aromantics, demi/gray spectrum, male, female, genderless – who are not on AVEN. They all have one thing in common with me: They feel like aliens on AVEN; puzzled why a forum for and about asexuals is full of sexual topics and horny teenagers. Maybe that is because we are no teenagers, yes. But I tend to think it’s more because we are asexual, and a vast majority of the AVEN users are confused kids that assume exotic labels to feel more special.