A Brief Review of Asexuality in Manifestos

I’m still not sure what I would want to include in an asexual manifesto (it’s quite a daunting task!), so I instead I want to chime in to this Month’s Carnival of Aces on Manifestos by dropping in a collection of a few past asexual (or potentially asexuality-adjacent) manifestos that may be of interest from an ace history perspective:

The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas (1967)

The SCUM Manifesto was a controversial document that caused controversy bit also ignited and inspired several radical movements in feminism in the the 1960s.I wouldn’t really call it an asexual manifesto per se, but it does ocasionally come up in ace community discussion because of these two passages that name drop asexuality (content warning for violence, both sexual and non-sexual):

On the other hand, those females least embedded in the male `Culture’, the least nice, those crass and simple souls who reduce fucking to fucking, who are too childish for the grown-up world of suburbs, mortgages, mops and baby shit, too selfish to raise kids and husbands, too uncivilized to give a shit for anyones opinion of them, too arrogant to respect Daddy, the `Greats’ or the deep wisdom of the Ancients, who trust only their own animal, gutter instincts, who equate Culture with chicks, whose sole diversion is prowling for emotional thrills and excitement, who are given to disgusting, nasty upsetting `scenes’, hateful, violent bitches given to slamming those who unduly irritate them in the teeth, who’d sink a shiv into a man’s chest or ram an icepick up his asshole as soon as look at him, if they knew they could get away with it, in short, those who, by the standards of our `culture’ are SCUM… these females are cool and relatively cerebral and skirting asexuality.

Unhampered by propriety, niceness, discretion, public opinion, `morals’, the respect of assholes, always funky, dirty, low-down SCUM gets around… and around and around… they’ve seen the whole show — every bit of it — the fucking scene, the dyke scene — they’ve covered the whole waterfront, been under every dock and pier — the peter pier, the pussy pier… you’ve got to go through a lot of sex to get to anti-sex, and SCUM’s been through it all, and they’re now ready for a new show; they want to crawl out from other the dock, move, take off, sink out. But SCUM doesn’t yet prevail; SCUM’s still in the gutter of our `society’, which, if it’s not deflected from its present course and if the Bomb doesn’t drop on it, will hump itself to death.

((read the full text)

It’s unclear whether Solanas would have identified at all with the ace community in it’s modern incarnation (or whether members of modern aces resonate much with her – I’m very ambivalent), but Solanas’s manifesto has remained an object of interst for asexual research scholars like Breanna Fahs and Ela Przybylo who also have an interest in radical feminism.

The Asexual Manifesto by Lisa Orlando (1972)

You may have seen this Manifesto mentioned recently in an article on the Asexual Agenda – I recommend reading tha article to learn more. This manifesto was written by Lisa Orlando at a 1972 caucus of the New York Radical Feminists which originally set out to discuss tensions between straight women and lesbian women in radical feminism; however, some group memebers split up to create separate caucuses for bisexuality and asexuality (the latter consisting of Lisa Orlando and Barbara Getz). The initial draft position paper created by this caucus would later be shaped by Lisa Orlando into the final Asexual Manifesto.

We chose the term “asexual” to describe ourselves because both “celibate” and “anti-sexual” have connotations we wished to avoid: the first implies that one has sacrificed sexuality for some higher good, the second that sexuality is degrading or somehow inherently bad.  “Asexual”, as we use it, does not mean “without sex” but “relating sexually to no one”.  This does not, of course, exclude masturbation but implies that if one has sexual feelings they do not require another person for their expression.  Asexuality is, simply, self-contained sexuality.

 (read the full text)

The Asexual Manifesto by Shona (~2001)

The next manifesto is the first from the internet age, and is much more closely tied in to early ace communities, which occasionally linked to the asexualmanifesto.org webpage, whose alternative geocities.com/humanamoeba url also directly drew on the language of early ace communities and pro-communities like “My Life as a Human Amoeba” and the Haven for the Human Amoeba.

This is neither the beginning, middle, nor end of the manifesto. I (and hopefully others) will continue to add to this site, and the site as a whole will be the manifesto. I sit here now with swollen eyes wondering how to take the next step. In the event of success, this will become global.

My relationships are real, yet do not involve sex.

It is difficult for me to understand or speak out about sexual relationships simply because I’m not in one and do not care to be.

I have witnessed, however, the ramifications of these relationships, and I simply cannot be bothered with the consequences.   So….I have made this site for myself and anyone interested to explore the differences between a “friendship” and a “relationship” and why friendship has gotten such a bad rap over the years. I think that there are a lot of people out there like me, that they just don’t come forward because of modern social pressures. Let’s see how this works.

(read the full text)

In addition to the iintroductory text above, the asexual manifesto website also contained suggest goals for activism which bears a striking resemblance to many of the goals ace activists continue to pursue to this day, as well as links to other discussions from the time. 

An Ace Survivor’s Manifesto from QueenieofAces (2014)

The Ace Survivor’s Manifesto (thanks to the Ace Theist for the link!) is one of the more recent of the bunch, and one very connected to the ace community many of us are active in today, as the author (Queenie) is also a longstanding contributor to the Carnival of Aces. This manifesto focuses on Queenie’s own experiences of asexuality as an ace survivor of sexual assault (this piece discusses sexual assault, abuse, victim blaming, identity policing – be mindful if any of those are potential triggers).

I am allowed to occupy space in the universe, regardless of how “difficult” or “complicated” or “messy” I may be.

I am allowed to identify as a survivor or a victim or something else entirely.  I am allowed to identify as asexual, even if I don’t know whether past experiences “caused” or “contributed to” my asexuality.  I am allowed to use the words that work best for me.

Responsibility for my assault(s) lies with my attacker(s), not me, my sexual orientation, my relationship decisions, or my attitude toward or willingness to have sex.

I am not required to defend my sexual orientation because of my status as a survivor.  I am not required to defend my status as a survivor because of my sexual orientation.

Whatever attitude I have toward sex is valid.  I am allowed to want sex.  I am allowed to be repulsed by sex.  I am allowed to enjoy sex.  I am allowed to be indifferent toward sex.  I am allowed to be curious about sex.  I am allowed to be terrified of sex.  I am allowed to have multiple potentially conflicting attitudes toward sex.  I am not required to explain or rationalize my attitude(s) toward sex to anyone else.

My feelings are valid.  Whether or not they are “caused” by past experiences of trauma does not affect their validity.

I deserve to be treated with respect.  

(read the full text)

An Asexual Manifesto by Terlona Knife (2018)

This last manifesto that was featured in the AZE journal is the most recent, and takes the form of poetry rather than prose, and focuses on their own experiences of asexuality and blackness:

You have failed me

Sex sells, good girls are don’t have sex

Be pure they say to the white girl

You haven’t had sex yet… but black I see

That skin speaks to me sexually

He said.. She said.. They said… Them they ALLL said

Your blackness speaks sex to me

Speaks fluid languages of sexuality

Fuck autonomy.

 Identity

(read the full text)

Readers, do you know of any other pre-exising Ace Manifestos? Or is there anything about the listed manifestos that resonates with you?

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