This post was crossposted on The Asexual Agenda.
Earlier I saw a post by Anagnori
expressing a sentiment I've seen several times before: Why do we have
to define asexuality in a "negative" way, in terms of what asexuals don't experience?
desire is there, but for the most part no one is really able to come up
with a "positive" alternative. So no one really knows what it would be
like to have a "positive" form of asexuality.
However, I can
analogize it to another "negative" label that has come up with
"positive" alternatives: atheism. Atheism is also defined as a lack.
But there have been many attempts by many groups to come up with
"positive" alternatives. Words like "humanist", "skeptic",
"secularist", and "freethinker" are examples. And even where these
labels are not used explicitly, many "atheist" communities de facto have
positive values--people not sharing those values are either pushed out
or made to feel out of place.
This strategy has costs and
benefits. The benefit is a more coherent goal, and more power to
achieve that goal. The cost is divisiveness.
really a bad thing in itself. For instance, it's not bad that the
atheist and asexual communities are divided, that just makes sense! In
terms of atheist communities, I don't really mind if supernaturalist
atheists aren't part of my community--we don't have much in common
anyway. No, what's wrong with divisiveness among atheists is that
atheism is not just a political cause, but also a minority identity. (I
developed this idea more in a post on my blog.)
Atheists can in principle have all sorts of political views, and yet
they may still need community support by virtue of being a minority in a
religious society. If some people feel unwelcome in mainstream atheist
communities, or worse, there are big clashes between different atheist
communities, that's the price we have to pay.
When I apply these
costs and benefits to asexuality, it just doesn't make sense to turn
asexuality into a more "positive" label. Is there a particular need for
a more coherent goal? Is it worth the divisiveness?
Asexuality serves more as a minority identity than a political cause. If you find an alternative positive meaning, it will
exclude people. For example, you could create a definition in terms of
queerplatonic relationships (ie strong relationships that are neither
friendships nor romantic), but personally I'm not interested in those
relationships. I'd be willing to politically advocate for their
legitimacy, but not to participate in them. If asexuality were a
political cause, that would be fine. But since it's a minority
identity, it's not fine, it's exclusionary.
Another example: A lot
of asexuals (especially in the blogging community) are very
pro-feminist. Feminism--there's a positive value for you. But do you
feel comfortable with branding asexuality as a kind of feminism, perhaps
the kind of feminism that emphasizes sexual diversity, loves reductionism,
and has sophisticated views on "sex-positivity"? Those things are
great, but given how often asexuals feel their identities delegitimized,
I'd like to reduce the pressure on asexuals to be anything in
particular. (In contrast, I'm just fine with atheist communities where
atheism is closely associated with feminism.)
So based on my
experience, I just don't see a "positive" definition of asexuality as
being a good thing. I think it would lead to misery.
arguments from analogy are always sketchy. Would we come to the same
conclusion if we considered other analogies? There's probably something
to be learned from non-binary people, for instance.