So in one of the last rounds of the ongoing “we need to emphasize sex-averse aces more!” vs. “we need to emphasize aces who are positive towards and/or have sex more” safe space cycle, someone said something that I think sort of got at the heart of the problem. I’m massively massively paraphrasing here, since I don’t remember the exact quote, but it went something like this:
“The problematic thing about sex-favorable discourse is that when people talk about how they as aces are neutral or even positive to sex, I can’t relate. It’s harmful because it makes me feel alienated even in my own community and it’s not a safe space for me anymore.”
Sex-favorable, sex-neutral, and sex-having aces were rightly offended – being basically told “You should stop talking because I don’t like people who aren’t like me talking in my community” was understandably upsetting.
But I think it gets at the root of this ongoing cycle. For many people, an ideal “safe space” is not only only a place where one is free from outright attack, but also a “comfortable space” where one can escape the internal feelings of alienation that come from being a minority, and instead be among likeminded people.
It reminds me a bit of a few years back, when AVEN was having a furor over whether or not to have an aromantic orientations forum (separate from the general orientations forum). At the time, one of the main arguments was that the orientations and relationships forums were dominated by romantics and it was alienating and driving out aromantics since there were no posts relevant to them. That didn’t seem right to me from my personal experience, so I actually went through and counted -and at that time, the first several pages of threads actually had more discussions about aromanticism than they had about all romantic orientations combined!
But after thinking about it, the root problem for many aromantics wasn’t that there were too many conversations about romanticism – the problem was that there were any at all. Considering the emphasis on romance in the general population, even a single mention of how great romance was was enough to tip the balance over to “unsafe” for many aromantics.
And in recent discussions about sex-averse aces, it became clear that something similar was going on – because of the general emphasis on “sex is great!” in general culture, even one or two references to “hey aces can like sex” in ace communities is enough to tip them back to feeling alienated and unsafe again. Which is why it seems like no matter what sex-favorable/sex-neutral aces do, someone always says they’re still taking up too much space.
I think this alienation problem is one of the big challenges for creating true “safe spaces” in general ace communities – because all too often, the only way to make a space “safe” would be to silence another group, which would destroy their own safety.
In my opinion, I think at some point we need to realize that maybe truly diverse spaces cannot be completely “safe” spaces – or at least not completely comfortable spaces – so long as different groups have conflicting needs, as we have seen that they often do. Instead, I think it might be better to focus on creating more sub-specific “safe spaces” as safe havens and retreats, instead of trying to find an impossible balance to enforce on general communities.
(A/N: updated the title slightly on 12/31/15)