Friday, November 21, 2008

More Praises, and Fears

If this blog convinces you of one thing, hopefully it will be that meetups are truly important. Maybe my endless rhapsodies over meetups will get you out to one, if you haven't been, or get you to start your own. I'm realizing that asexual discourse taking place over the internet will not be the same as discourse taking place in person. Under the cloak of anonymity that the internet provides, people can spout truly ridiculous ideas. Even though AVEN is very well-moderated, it's hard to regulate the constant anti-sexualism and asexual fear-mongering that I see. But at meetups, people aren't talking about whether asexuals are the peak of human evolution. We're talking about visibility, education, and food. (We definitely love to talk about food.) While there are many logical, moderate, and sensitive people on AVEN, when it comes to the internet, it's the sort of doomsday stuff that feeds into itself and grows, and I find that the more seasonsed members tend to get lost in the fray of people shouting "SEX IS GROSS!" and other things that aren't constructive. Complaning about sex and sexual people will not get asexuals anywhere. I don't love AVEN because some people are desperate to tell you how much they hate genitals, I love AVEN for the theoretical and helpful discussions about how to find our place in this world. And I fear that AVEN will devolve as "people like me" (sex-positive asexuals, I suppose we're called) get frustrated and leave. Just like it's hard to count on a soulmate for all your emotional needs, it's hard to count on AVEN for all your asexual needs.

Sure, you can think "Asexuals are smarter!" in your head. I'm not Catholic and I don't believe in the sin of your thoughts. But when asexuals communicate these things to one another in a public forum, they're creating a discourse and a shared experience. And what do we really want to be fostering? I guess it's too much to ask that AVEN participants keep a vision of our potential community in their minds. But when you're at a meetup, I think that vision becomes clearer. Meetups are not conducive to being prejudiced or pissed off at the world. I always leave happy (except when no one else shows up). I know that it's impossible to have a completely common vision. But if you're interested in building asexual community, I think it's necessary to think about what you want it to look like. For me, it involves getting offline and into the "real world", and I think I've made a pretty good case for the benefits of that. (Says the blogger...)


Lanafactrix said...

I'd guess it might be a form of safe space syndrome. Heck, it's frustrating for me to be constantly bombarded with media messages that I'm not good enough unless I'm bleached and waxed and primped and painted and having tons and tons o' sex--and I'm sexual (and in a happy relationship). It must be much worse for some people. So perhaps it's a combination of relief and pent-up anger that comes out on the AVEN boards?

Ily said...

A pox on media messages!

Yep, well-said...I try to be sympathetic towards other people's anger, but anger tends to feed into more anger, which can start to get really unproductive. People need to realize that no matter what your sexuality is, you'll always have problems of some kind, so we might as well start solving the ones we have rather than wishing we had different ones. I'm glad we have non-asexual allies on AVEN and elsewhere too-- you guys are really important. Some aces have had really horrible experiences related to being asexual and want to blame all sexual people, but it's good for them to know that some people will take them seriously beyond the 1%. I think that's very powerful.

KC the MoUsY spell-checker said...

I think that anything that is posted just reflects the nature of the people who arrive at the site in the first place.

Who joins AVEN in the first place? Mainly people who know that they are asexual, those who suspect they might be, or those with asexual people in their lives. (I'm not counting those who are there just to spam or troll.)

I'm on a few other forums other than AVEN, and on all of them there are people complaining about various things. In the case of AVEN, anti-sexual rants would be the kind of complaint one can expect.

Of course, like any other forum, there are also going to be people posting deep and meaningful articles, radical comments, outright silliness, and everything in between. I'm glad to read all the interesting threads where people share their experiences as asexuals.

I've been to two meetups (there was one just on Saturday, actually), and both were fun. Both meetups started with meals so that we can talk over food. We can talk about anything. I'm glad I went, and I'm likely to keep attending future meetups.

The thing is, a lot of people are shy about actually going to a meetup. For example, in one of the meetup threads, someone mentioned that they were worried that there might be someone they already know.

Lanafactrix said...

I guess I think of asexuality the way I think of homosexuality. I don't really grok the impulse (or lack thereof), because it's not me. But by the same token . . . people around the world love coffee. As long as they don't hold me down and pour it down my throat, they can drink all the coffee they want. It costs me nothing to be an advocate for people who don't have the same privileges.

Ily said...

Exactly...but I say "people around the world love soccer" because I do drink coffee once in awhile.

I wonder if there's any way to get those shy people at meetups...because I'm shy as well, but I still don't know. I'm curious-- in what city did someone think there would be someone they knew? That's very statistically improbable...are there more of us somewhere?

Ily said...

ie, asexuals are like Americans when it comes to the worldwide passion of soccer. We're not sure why everyone else is so into it, but that's okay, so we just do other things.

I didn't explain that well the first go round ;-)

Coleslaw said...

I think meet-ups are also important because you can talk about things that aren't related to asexuality. I mean, on AVEN, the forum centres on asexuality, and thus most discussions happening are related to sexual identity, relationships, and questioning of labels.

When we have meets in Vancouver, like with last night's meet, we were 8 people who were all over the map age wise, orientation wise, experience wise, interest wise... We came together and debated politics and religion, talked about Dr. Who/David Tennant, ranted about homework, exams, and work the next morning, and mutually agreed that mango ice cream is phenomenal. We could be the people on the street that you walk past tomorrow--we're just people.

I think meet-ups really just remind you of that as well, and I consistently take away from meet ups how cool other people are in this vast and expanding world...

Ily said...

That's a very good point.

I hate anything mango but wish I could have been there :-)

gatto said...

A pox on the media, yes. I'm down with that.

I like AVEN, though. Yeah, there's a lot of nonsense, but it seems like that's where people tend to go when the first read about asexuality, and there really is nowhere else like that. It would be sad if all the sensible people left, because then what would be there for the new ones?

Also I've got to know some pretty cool people there, the type whose posts I look out for on the forums, even if I can't keep track of all of the threads (and some of them are not worth reading). It's the same with the chat room. I mostly stay logged in and just keep an eye out for who else is in there. Most of the time, it's not interesting, but if I'm at my desk (which I often am) I'll check in when I hear that ding.

AVEN is also great because we have all the kitties. You can't argue with that. =^..^=

Anne said...

Mm. The anonymity of a message board gives some people internet muscles. Face-to-face interactions won't generally include immature "Ew, sex is icky" comments. Meetups & off-the-net groups are definitely important.

Sasha said...

Here here! I'd add something, but you've all covered it! Wonderful post and comments.