Some asexuals (but not all) feel disgusted at the idea of having any sex. This occasionally leads to the belief that sex is bad, and non-procreative sex should be reduced as much as possible. This belief is known as antisexuality.
The historical relationship between the asexual community and antisexuality is an interesting one. It's the story of how a community shifted from antisexuality to sex-positivity. Let's jump back to 2001, before the founding of AVEN, the major asexual community of today.
Asexuality on LiveJournal
One of the pre-AVEN communities was a LiveJournal community called "Asexuals". This was the group's description:
This is a community for folks who think sex is terribly overrated and pointless unless of course it has meaning. Come to think of it, there are tons of reasons why you might be ASEXUAL. Sex is constantly shoved down our throats by the media. What once was a beautiful and powerful thing, is now cheapened because some brilliant demon thought it would be smart to use it to sell their product. Because of this, nobody takes it seriously. Sex is no longer about expressing anything. Fight back.It's difficult for me to contain my negative reaction to this description. For one thing, they are conflating asexuality (lack of sexual attraction) with celibacy (not having sex) and with antisexuality. But remember, this is back in 2001. Currently, "asexual" is defined as "a person who does not experience sexual attraction". But back in 2001, this definition had not been established! Back then, the "asexual" community was a mix of celibates, antisexuals, and people who personally did not like sex.
But that meant that there was little space for people who did not personally like sex, but had no problems with sex in general. There was also little space for people with partially sexual experiences.
But 2002 saw the founding of what are now the two biggest asexual communities. AVEN was founded by David Jay, and the "Asexuality" LiveJournal group was founded by Nat, aka Paranoid Gynandroid.
Nat originally came to the concept of asexuality through a genderqueer/third gender mailing list. A lot of newcomers tended to confuse androgyny with asexuality, so the topic came up often. Nat related to asexuality, so they (using singular "they" for Nat) tried to find an asexual community. What they found instead was the Asexuals LJ group. So they founded the Asexuality LJ group as a reaction to it:
I've just created this community because I saw a gap which needed filling. The asexuals community is a good place for celibate people to discuss the difficulty of living in a society which continually pushes sexual images into our faces, but as such it is usually full of posts attacking sexual activities of others.Nat was also in contact with David Jay, and wrote AVEN's FAQ page. Here's a sample of the FAQ as originally written:
Personally I am sex positive, I think people should have as much or as little sex as they like with whoever they're attracted to. As long as sex is consentual I think it's a positive pleasurable thing and that people should be allowed to enjoy it if they wish to. Sex doesn't have to have meaning if those involved decide it doesn't. I'm not against sex as 'casual' or 'trivial'.
I enjoy being sexual with my loving partner but I've never really felt driven to have sex with anyone else, could I be asexual?Nat wrote this with the intention of building a more inclusive and sex-positive asexuality. Based on responses, it was apparent that there were many people who felt the need to censor their experiences in the previous antisexual environment of the asexual community.
Most asexual people are capable of having sex, as with masturbation some asexuals find the experience of sex pleasurable. If you use sex as an expression of romantic or emotional attraction (love) rather than because you are driven to do so by a sex drive, then that need not contradict an asexual identity. [...]
I don't have crushes on people, I'm perfectly happy just having close friends, that means I'm very asexual doesn't it?
Yes it means you're asexual but I question the idea of 'very asexual'. There is no hierarchy of asexuality. [...]
Are asexual people more [sensible/clever/etc.] than sexual people?
Asexuals are just as diverse as sexual people. Some of us may be sensible and intellectual, some of us are less so. [...]
But around 2004, Nat stepped back from the community. They decided not to be a visible asexual activist because they were afraid public would confuse asexuality and their genderqueer identity. Contrast with David Jay, who is a young white attractive cis-male. These qualities made David Jay an ideal asexual spokesperson, though for reasons he acknowledges are messed-up. Because Nat stepped back, Nat became one of the lesser known heroes of the asexual community.
AVEN and the Nonlibidoism Society
AVEN is the other major asexual community, started in 2002 by David Jay. Like Nat, David also had a vision of a sex-positive asexuality. AVEN adopted and popularized the current definition of asexual, "a person who does not experience sexual attraction".
But early on, AVEN had a rival community. The Official Asexual Society had a definition of asexuality which was very incompatible with AVEN's definition. In 2004, after AVEN's big media successes, the Official Asexual Society changed its name to the Official Nonlibidoism Society, because the word "asexual" had been tainted.
What was the definition advocated by the Nonlibidoism Society? A nonlibidoist was someone who has not had a sex drive ever. It was emphasized that nonlibidoists did not masturbate, and that it was a life-long thing. It was also an unwritten rule that nonlibidoists had to be repulsed by sex, and have antisexual views.
This exclusive definition was enforced by an application test. You had to answer a bunch of questions, and send it to the administrator, Miss Geri, for her personal review. You could only have membership and access to the forums if Miss Geri accepted you.
Another bizarre thing about the Nonlibidoism Society was the unicorn and Hindu imagery all over the website. My research didn't turn up any explanation for that. In 2007, the website disappeared for reasons unknown to me, and all I have is the internet archive.
Upon the dissolution of the Nonlibidoism Society, many of its members moved to the AVEN forums. Here is a personal account by Dargon, an AVEN member at the time:
They were better than sexuals, better than AVEN asexuals, just plain better. They didn't have those desires of the flesh ruling over their bodies. They were more rational, and could feel more purely since their emotions weren't clouded by sex. They were perhaps the biggest group of egotistical douchebags I have ever encountered.Thankfully, this drama is long over by now (otherwise I wouldn't have felt welcome on AVEN myself).
When they polluted AVEN, they frequently used terms such as "real" or "pure" asexuals, as though thinking sex was okay made you impure. People would show up and mention that they tried sex before and really didn't care for it, only to be berated for even thinking they might be asexual, as a "real asexual" would never even try sex. Long established members would become constant targets of attack, supported by the masses. Discussions on sexuality other than "sex is icky" would be drowned out in those very juvenile lamentations.
Nowadays, "nonlibidoist" simply refers to someone without sex drive (ie doesn't masturbate), without all the exclusivity and elitism attached. Nonetheless, I discourage heavy use of the term, because it's just about the silliest identity distinction you could make. It's useful to show that some asexuals masturbate and some don't, but otherwise there isn't any major difference between the two groups. Also, not many people are interested in adopting an identity which places emphasis on the details of their private life.
The current state of antisexuality
Antisexual communities still exist, of course. The Russian-based Antisexual Stronghold comes to mind. But I don't know much about any of these communities, because they are completely separated from the English-speaking asexual community, and nobody talks about them. (Update: Many years later, I finally learned more about the Russian antisexual community, and they have some very different things going on.)
Which is not to say that there are no antisexuals in the asexual community. The asexual community is such that there is a constant flux of newcomers, and there will always be some newcomers who are antisexual. Often, it's because they're reacting against a society that alienates and ignores them. This often gets compounded by a personal feeling of disgust with sexual activity. Then they find the asexual community, where they can finally vent all their frustrations.
The vast majority eventually shift to a more reasonable view, in a process I've heard called "detoxing". Society may have done messed up things to them, but that's no reason to hate everyone and what they do. They may feel personal disgust at sex, but it would be inappropriate to generalize this experience to everyone else, or to derive moral rules from it.
It will forever be a subject of debate on how to best deal with these people. We need to aid the detoxing process. We need to make sure they don't get pushed away from the community just because of a bad start. We need to make sure that they don't push other people away. There are still other concerns about how such people hurt visibility efforts, but I don't agree with this. There are much less self-destructive ways to improve asexual visibility than chasing people away (eg blogging).
But for all the fuss about it, I think the asexual community has it pretty good. I mean, look at the straight community! Homophobia is organized and rampant!
Disclaimer: This is by no means an attempt to give an academic historical account, but rather, an attempt to tell this history to a wider audience. For a more serious and in-depth look, please instead see my sources listed below:
1. History discussion on Apositive (this is my major source)
2. Asexuality: The History of a Definition
3. Internet archive: the original Asexuality LiveJournal group
4. Internet archive: the original AVEN BigFAQ (compare to current FAQ)
5. Internet archive: The Official Nonlibidoism Society