Sunday, August 31, 2008

Subcultures of One

The question ending my last post got me thinking about a topic that's of great interest to me: The internet as it relates to the rise of "Subcultures of One". I have to say, I have a good amount of experience with this phenomenon. Around my 18th birthday, I had a transformative experience involving what was then called "underground" hip-hop. I began a deep and sincere love of hip-hop and its culture of self-expression against the odds. While I was the only person I knew who was as into it, that didn't stop me from learning all the words to "Bombs Over Baghdad" or spreading the gospel on our college radio station. In the beginning, what helped me learn was incessantly listening to the music on internet radio. While my appreciation for hip-hop remains strong, I've gotten very into indiepop music since then, as you probably can tell from my other posts. My education started by downloading songs online, and continues with the active "Indiepop List" list-serv. I also love indiepop's culture of DIY ideals and mixing sweet dorkiness with punk-rock defiance to cultural norms. And if it's possible, even fewer people that I know have any association with indiepop. No one knows what "Pastels badges" are or what popsongs your "new boyfriend is too stupid to know about". Hell, no one else I know would ever write "pop songs" as "popsongs".

And then, asexuality came into my life. Like my exploration of indiepop and hip-hop, my discovery of asexuality was heavily aided by the internet. But oddly enough, I've probably interacted with more asexuals (thanks to meetups!) than I have with hip-hoppers or indiepoppers. I know I'm rare, though. Most aces still feel like the only ones they know-- like they're subcultures of one. And while that can be a relatively safe place, I think it's also important (perhaps vital!) to convene with like-minded, real-world folks every once in awhile. Especially in the case of asexuality. While it could be problematic to have a partner who paints over your lovingly sprayed graffiti, or who thinks The Jesus and Mary Chain is a product of Satan, you'll definitely want someone who has some overlap with you in how you view sex. The internet can be so tantalizing-- showing you so many people and cultures that you can relate to-- but it can also frustrate. What's the use of having internet asexuals if no one outside the 'net believes or reaffirms you? "All told", it can be very difficult to have an identity partially forged from the smithy of the internet.

But, it really isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sure, in a previous time period, we would probably just do and like whatever our friends did and liked. But what's the adventure in that? My disparate musical subcultures have given more to me than I could have imagined. Maybe it's strange, but music gives my life meaning. It gives me something to love deeply in a world where I often don't understand the love that I'm being told is most important. It also inspires me to be creative and to express myself-- I'm lucky enough to love a lot of music in which enthusiasm is more important than snazzy production. And asexuality has been the same. It's inspired me to work for a common good; to help people better understand themselves and show them that they're not alone. Secretly, I thought it was kind of cool to like music that my friends didn't know about. I felt good about my ability to "put people on to new shit", as they say, and liked nothing more than to share my discoveries. I have to admit, I haven't been able to capture this feeling yet about my obscure sexuality. But even if you have, at some point, you will probably want to meet real-life asexuals. The structure might not exist yet. But the fact that we actually went online and did the research speaks well of the possibilities. We're not content to act heterosexual because our friends are; we're enterprising. We seek answers. And that bodes well.

9 comments:

grasexuality said...

Haha, yeah, me too. I'm into different obscure music than you are, but still obscure to the point that I have made up a "subculture of one" as you say, for most of my life. I know there are a lot of people out there who do listen to my music (it's getting kinda popular now actually), but I've hardly ever met them except over the internet. It is cool to be able to tell people about stuff they've never heard of, but with a topic so personal as my own sexual identity, it gets old fast. It's really exhausting to have to educate people all the time. But yeah, in a way I do feel good about it because I'm not just sticking with the default identity; I'm actively examining myself to decide what I really am regardless of what others think I should be.

Anne said...

DIY culture is very near & dear to my heart. I'm into independent music, although I identify as a punk rather than an indiepopper.

Interesting post & comparison. Asexuality is still very much an internet thing for me, while I'm heavily involved off the net (and on, in some cases) with punk/independent music. Are you having a difficult time meeting people who are also into the music you like (or even the ethics & ideas that are involved in making that music)? For me, it's mainly been something that's been off the internet, since I'm going to shows, playing in bands, setting up shows, and meeting people all the time who also move in similar circles.

But yeah - asexuality is still primarily an internet thing, & I definitely don't want it to remain that way. Hence my desire to see more literature, make zines, start real world organizations, etc etc etc.

Ily said...

Gray, you're right...it does get old REAL fast! Honestly, I have a hard time educating people in the real world outside of structured settings. And Anne, your comment got me thinking that perhaps asexuals could be united by a creative endeavor-- maybe putting on a play or making a publication in their area. Maybe that's just because I never know what to do at meetups, but I'm also constantly trying to find ways for people to feel like they have some kind of stake in the process, rather than just showing up.

Anonymous said...

I totally relate to the 'subculture of one' thing; as time goes by I'm getting more and desperate to meet someone--anyone!--who shares my experience as an asexual.

Anne said...

Ily - I think that could be a great idea. People get motivated around different things, and maybe just planning meetups & hanging out shouldn't be the only way to get asexual people together. Working on a project can really bring people together, and feeling like you have some stake in the process, & that what you are doing is meaningful & important to you - I think that's a way to get people to want to be involved & stay involved.

I'm really into the idea of getting a zine going (& hopefully having it be submission-based will get other people involved & interested in the idea as well), and I'm also really interested in this, as long as the groups can find a way keep people involved.

Ily said...

Ah, now I'm putting a name with a project-- I remember your zine! (Entertaining a Ghost?) I made a zine recently, and I'm realizing that distributing it will be the hard part-- any tips in that arena? You're right, those local groups are a good idea, I'm the leader of the SF one. I think a lot of people are apprehensive about visibility, though. I keep trying to think of ways to do visibility that are 100% nonthreatening, but it isn't easy...

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I'm not Asexual, but i share your love of indiepop! I live in the uk and i've only met one (i think, maybe 2) other person(s) into that genre, and they were norwegian

interesting blog btw :)

Ily said...

People of all orientations are welcome here, especially if they like indiepop! :-)