Aces and Anonymity

Life has changed from access to broad open spaces and meeting friends in person to access to broadband and meeting them solely online. It’s almost a year since my last irl ace meeting was cancelled, due to Covid of course. I live in South East England, but I’d booked a week’s break in County Durham, several hours away by train. As I’ve posted elsewhere, part of my reason for going was that I wanted to take photos to upload to YouTube along with extracts from my stories, but I was also intending to join in an AVEN meet – the date coincided. My plans were scuppered. The book extracts benefitted: instead of photos, I’ve been uploading stunning videos shot professionally. (There’s a link below.) In other ways, I lost out though.

I’m a regular poster on AVEN, a sometimes poster on Reddit’s Aegosexual sub, an occasional poster on the Asexual Agenda, and I do truly appreciate the interaction that online forums offer. I can talk to people from far-flung places, share their sadnesses and happy times. I’ve seen pictures of other people’s homes, their pets, their cars. I know where they take their walks and what they grow in their gardens. I’ve discussed politics and social norms and lifestyle differences… skewed, it’s true, to comments from Europe and North America, but with a sprinkling of input from elsewhere. And, as I’m a curious person, I really enjoy such exchanges. I can’t think of anything that isn’t discussed on a forum somewhere. Sex too. There’s a lot of discussion of sex considering that most of us are aces. It’s not the same as meeting in real life though.

When you meet people in person, you lose your anonymity. This can be such a disadvantage. It’s only natural, I suppose: people tend to gravitate to those who are, perhaps, similar in age or towards those whom they like the look of, or the sound of (pitch and accent) or, in a class-ridden society like mine, to those who seem to have a background that resembles their own. Et cetera. And that is so exclusive! It locks people out. It ignores them. The reason I miss irl ace meetings so much is that the commonality – the being ace – overrides all those reasons for not talking to someone, not sharing a meal with them, not going on a walk together, not giving them a second look. Age, class, background and all the other stupid divisions and barriers to interaction become irrelevant. All that matters is that you’re either an ace or someone who is supportive of asexuality. And the weird thing is, being ace has never been discussed at any of the meets I’ve been on! It’s just there, floating around in the background yet, like glue, sticking everyone together.

It amazes me that I can meet up in person with a group of people and feel a part of the group instead of apart from a group. I don’t get that feeling as much when I’m just online perhaps because, online, it isn’t necessary to dispense with anonymity. Online, I’m part of the general group, no questions asked. In person, because that anonymity is lost, questions can be asked and, if you don’t fit in with people’s expectations, tough luck: you can’t join in. Ace meets, however, are inclusive. At least, the ones that I’ve attended have been. So, I’m waiting for these awful times to change and for a resumption of something like the old normality. I miss the real meetings. And, thinking of the differences between things online and in real life, here is the link to this month’s drone-shot video. It’s for Ace in the Picture, the third of the County Durham Quad books (There are 6 books in total) and the one in which I introduced Nick, who is ace. He definitely feels apart. (You’d have to read the subsequent books to see how that all changes!) Not County Durham in the flesh, but, even online, you can see that the scenery (Weardale) is simply beautiful! Many, many thanks to Andy Ditchfield of Skyward Aerial for filming it. https://youtu.be/l7BoHSr8NeU

Aces and Friends: Where’s Home?

(A brief response to Coyote’s request for submissions to the Asexual Agenda’s Carnival of Aces on the theme of ‘Home’)

Lack of time to use the internet a lot, but I regularly check the Asexual Agenda and AVEN sites. Usually on my phone or tablet. Sometimes seated at a desk in front of my PC. I don’t find the desktop set up very relaxing. Putting up with the discomfort has one big advantage when I’m forum-ferreting though: if users wish to offer it, there’s extra personal info. I always want to know the answer to the question, “Where is home?”

Some people inhabit places found in books, or dark spaces of the mind. Others make something wonderful up. They should be publishing poems and stories – there are some brilliant locations. (I’d give some examples, but I doubt it would be ethical.) The majority of users simply state a genuine place you can find on a map. I love geography. Homelands interest me.

It probably comes as no surprise that the asexual (and ace-friendly) community seems to be strongest in the United States and the United Kingdom. At least, it does when I’m looking. I’m sure there are lots of reasons. A time-zone bias perhaps. I tend to be on-line mid-evening, UK time. Not good for catching posters from Australia and Japan. Language bias maybe…although I don’t really think that language is the barrier it would have been, say, thirty years ago. A brief look the other night showed posters living in Poland, Belgium, Sweden and the Czech Republic. All were posting in English. Many homelands are represented – but others rarely or never are.

I can’t believe that the reason is that no one in those missing countries is ace. I’m prepared to believe that they don’t know that they are ace, though. I don’t like to think that there are people who are living with all the problems caused by ignorance of their orientation. Because their political and social and/ or religious systems are so repressed, they don’t have access to information, and they’re denied the comfort that comes from sharing on-line with a community of like-minded people. It’s so helpful to share like that, particularly if actually meeting other aces isn’t possible. However, this blog, or any blog published in response to Coyote’s request, is unlikely to be read by people who live, for example, in mainland China. Mine is hosted by WordPress, as is the Asexual Agenda’s, and I understand that although the WordPress software is unrestricted, all blogs hosted on wordpress.com are blocked there. Ditto if posts go out on Tumblr and Blogger. (Not sure about Pillowfort or Dreamwidth.)

But, occasionally, information does get through. When I last looked, there were over 7,000 posts on AVEN’s Alternate Language Forum (dating back, admittedly) and they included some from China. I shouldn’t have written that sentence. All that’s going through my head right now is Katie Melua’s ‘Nine million bicycles in Beijing’ and, sorry, it’s totally stoppered more blog-thoughts. If one or two per cent of the cyclists are asexual (the usual aces-in-the population figure that’s quoted), that’s a helluva lot of aces on saddles.


the Asexual Agenda: https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com

AVEN: https://www.asexuality.org

Wiki has a lengthy article on internet censorship. Dates aren’t current, but under ‘Around the World’ there’s a neat map that shows the degree of restriction, and many links and briefings. For China-specific info, there’s https://pgamboa.com

Aegosexuality and M/M fiction: strange bedfellows

I don’t live in the fantasia I created to house the gay quad of my stories, but I do enjoy spending time in the world of my imagination. An enriching escapism is how I view it.

I don’t imagine myself in the action. No ‘me’. No ‘ego’.  Third person sexual and romantic fantasies only. Personal involvement never. There’s a label, of course: aegosexuality. Literally, sex without self. (Perhaps the prefix should be ‘an’ — anego — but currently, more usually, the prefix is ‘a’ — aego.)

My understanding of the relevant academia isn’t great, so I might struggle a little here.  The aegosexual label taps in to the issue of asexuality. (Ace, for short.) The ace spectrum is a broad one, spanning an enormous range of responses to sex and romance. It does not equate to ‘frigid’. On the contrary, you can have a high libido and still be ace. Aegosexuality is the small section of the ace spectrum that rings a bell with me.

I could perhaps describe myself as ‘autochorissexual’. The term was first used, I believe, by Anthony Bogaert in a paper in 2012.  He  stated that ‘target-oriented paraphilias’ might occur, an example in some asexual people being a disconnection (my italics) between their identity and a sexual/target object. Effectively, ‘identity-less’ sexuality: the body responds to sexual stimuli or sexual fantasy without being attracted to the subject of the fantasy. He termed this physiological response “autochorissexuality”. (Chori: from Greek for ‘apart’)

There’s a problem with his definition – the word ‘paraphilia’. Is it pejorative? It can imply abnormal sexual desires that typically involve extreme or dangerous activities. Well, I might fantasise about extreme activities. In fact, Keith John Glaeske, reviewing my novel Badge of Loyalty for Out in Print, wrote that it was too brutal for most erotica. (The ending is brutal. The rest of the story isn’t, though.) But ‘abnormal’? No. On the contrary, very normal if ‘normal’ means the same as ‘common’. For a start, extreme fantasies aren’t confined to asexuals: orientation is irrelevant. (It’s well-documented that ace is an orientation.) For example, in an on-line study of 533 women published in 2017, Yule et al found that both 32% of ace women and 32% of sexual women fantasised about BDSM. To me, and more interesting, was the fact that both groups were equally likely to fantasise about homosexuality (16.39 and 14.29% respectively). I always fantasise about homosexuality. I have never done otherwise. To me visualising sex is fine – when body parts are not like mine. (My prose is better than my poetry, I hope.)

I’m female by birth and by identification, but I don’t read about fictional women indulging in romance or sex, and when I write about women their roles are treated cursorily. There’s certainly no sex. That’s because I can never imagine women having sex. Neither with a man, nor with another woman. In fact, I can’t really imagine any sort of action involving a female protagonist. It would be too much like being present myself. It’s Bogaert’s ‘disconnect’ again. So I write solely about men, and as women are excluded, if  romance or sex are included, then my men, by default, are gay.

Writing about gay men raises questions. Obviously, I haven’t been there/ done it etc.  So I might get some of the physical details wrong…. and I know that can be extremely irritating. In a sense, though, I’m not distressed about it. The focus of the stories isn’t sex. Sex is there, but being poly doesn’t mean that my four men are in and out of each other’s arses every minute of the day. The focus is the way they respond as individuals and as a quad to events that affect their lives. A four-man group lends itself to some interesting dynamics. I’ve tried to write about the way their alternative, non hetero-normative lifestyle affects their thoughts and actions and I don’t see that my being female hinders me from doing that. Lewis Carroll never went down a rabbit hole but he wrote a good yarn about somebody who did.

I’m not for one moment suggesting that every female who enjoys the M/M genre is aegosexual or asexual! (There’s that 14.29% for a start.) Nor that M/M is only written by women. Gosh! No!  But I think that being an aegoace woman helps to explain my personal interest and enjoyment. I write about men for the simple reason that I cannot write about women.

If you want to read about the men, the details of the books are below.

The next post will be, I think, about the ethics involved in writing fictional stories. (My conscience keeps playing me up.) Either that or turbidites.

Links

Polyamory on Trial (tbp August 2018)  and Badge of Loyalty (pub. February 2018) are both available from Rowanvale Books at http://www.rowanvalebooks.com and all the usual distributors. See Badge of Loyalty review in Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews, April 2018 at  https://outinprintblog.wordpress.com/

AVEN, the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, hosts a friendly forum and provides many resources. Note – it’s not a dating site. It’s online at  https://www.asexuality.org

Yule, Brotto and Gorzalka, . Sexual fantasy and masturbating among asexual individuals downloadable from https://researchgate.net. Various updates to this. e.g. 2017

The abstract for Anthony F. Bogaert’s paper on asexuality and autochorissexuality is at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed. The full paper is available (at a cost if uni affiliation is unavailable)  from https://link.springer.com within Archives of Sexual Behaviour Dec 2012, Vol 41, Issue 6.