Blog Rants: The Early Ace Blogosphere

This post is part of a series and cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda; you can view the masterpost here. It also fits the theme of the July Carnival of Aces on Asexual History, although it’s slightly late!

Previously, I contextualized my personal history with both blogging and the asexual community leading up to my decision to join WordPress. Now, I want to talk about the formation and history of the Ace Blogosphere proper.

(Warning: while I will not be getting into it here, I do briefly mention abuse/sexual assault and some of the links may discuss it in more detail.)

I want to note that I don’t (generally) count LiveJournal blogs as part of the Ace Blogosphere, because most of them had a totally different goal. While there were a couple of people who made blogs on LJ with the intent of discussing and educating people about asexuality, those were short-lived, and the vast, vast majority were personal, social, and often private. LJ blogs don’t really resemble the kind of topic-focused, public, and search-engine accessible writing/publishing formats we have now. So I consider the formation of a blogging network off of LJ to be the true start of the Ace Blogosphere; the earliest of those blogs appeared in 2007.

When I started Shades of Gray (now called Prismatic Entanglements) back in 2008, there was not really an ace blogosphere so much as there were a couple of individual blogs dealing with asexuality. The most dedicated, frequently updated blog was Ily’s Asexy Beast. Ily was also a prolific and upbeat commenter—she still holds the record for most comments ever at my blog! David Jay had a blog too, but he didn’t update regularly; most of his posts were transcripts of his podcast.

There was a wave of people all making ace blogs around the same time that I did, including: Venus of Willendork (a then-questioning potentially-asexual lesbian who ultimately identified as not asexual after all, and then moved to a new blog), Rainbow Amoeba (a French ace whose blog is now long gone), and Andrew Hinderliter. I can’t recall who else made a blog at that time, though. Most of these blogs are now either gone or no longer updating, including Asexy Beast.

It was sad news for me that Ily had moved on, although I completely understand it. By that point, things had changed so drastically that it felt like we were in a new era—the number of blogs had grown exponentially, to the point that, as Ily described it, “you are not limited by a lack of asexual writings online, but only by your time to read them all.” So I consider this point, 2012, to be the point where we can say that the early era is officially over, with 2011 being a turbulent transition year filled with acephobia and rage. I’m mostly talking about the times before then.

The time period I’m talking about for this post, then, is 2007-2011ish.

Tumblr wasn’t a thing. It existed, apparently, since 2006, but it wasn’t popular (with aces)—the first ace blogs on Tumblr seem to have started in 2010. I don’t recall any interactions with them until a year later.

AVEN was far more of a centralizing force back in ’07-’08, and blogs were on the frayed edges of the community, barely noticed—and that was more comfortable, for me. I had some serious beefs with AVEN, and I was definitely not the only one who found it inhospitable. Apositive began in January 2008, and I fled there for a few months… but it quickly became uncomfortable as well. A forum format is not ideal when you want to work through prolonged personal issues. I was frustrated, at the time, with how very little discussion there was of nuanced topics related to asexuality, and how completely inadequate the resources available in 2007 and 2008 were for my situation (which I didn’t recognize back then as abusive; it took until 2010 for me to realize that).

Everything was, perpetually, about explaining the basics of asexuality, in such a simplistic manner, to the point where I’d had no way to even begin to talk about anything more complicated. No one I knew had even a sufficient 101-level understanding of asexuality, nor did they show even the slightest interest in learning more. Most people responded with a callous, “Who cares?

I heard “nobody cares” one too many times, and then I was angry enough to cut ties and start a blog. It didn’t matter if nobody cared what I had to say. The point was, nobody else was saying it, and it would have helped me immensely if anyone had. So I was just going to go find a little corner of the internet and scream.

Apparently the assertion that “nobody cares” is demonstrably untrue.

From the beginning, there were already a handful of people who quickly found my blog and came to join in the discussion. I read their blogs, too, and our combined discussions became ever more lively, ebbing and flowing with each post, and slowly, steadily growing in the number of participants. There were a lot of people who started blogging for only a year or two, and then drifted away again. It felt to me like there were particular times that were almost like a tide, when several new blogs cropped up all at once, and then it gradually receded as only a few of them really stuck around—but still, the water level was rising as a whole.

The following moments highlight the rise of momentum:

  • In 2008, Keri Hulme (author of The Bone People) commented on Asexy Beast
  • In 2009, AVEN featured a feed of ace blogs on their home page, which brought a lot of new traffic and discussion. This isn’t feasible anymore due to the sheer amount of blogs available, but it was a big deal at the time. I think it did a lot to popularize the idea of ace blogging, and subsequently there was another wave of new blogs.
  • In 2009 (I think??) a journalist interviewed me for an article about gray-asexuality which was, as far as I know, the first mention of such a thing in any media, outside of asexual-only spaces. That article no longer exists, and as far as I can tell, was never archived.
  • Also in 2009, there was a dialog with Joy Davidson (who once appeared on a talk show’s asexuality segment and was portrayed in an “invalidating skeptical expert” role) on Asexual Curiosities; prior to this, she had always appeared to be somewhat hostile to the idea of asexuality.
  • In April 2010, I started a big survey on sexual assault—which was not limited to the asexual community, but had a lot of ace participants. It generated a lot more interest than I thought it would, many people shared their stories with me, and I use the insights I gained from it daily. The writing project I originally started this to support turned into something else completely. This was one of the times when I really started getting collaboration and support from outside the ace community.
  • In September 2010, after a lot of discussion of flibanserin (which many aces opposed), I hosted an interview with K, who ran a blog called Feminists with FSD (female sexual dysfunction). She then interviewed me in turn. These generated a lot of discussion, and brought to light some issues that were previously under-discussed.
  • In December 2010, there was a blog carnival on asexuality and autism, orchestrated by Sciatrix, Kaz, and Ily—here’s the roundup post.
  • In 2011, the Carnival of Aces began in earnest. This brought a whole new level of collaboration between bloggers and opened up the format to people who don’t normally blog about asexuality.
  • Another thing that happened in 2011: that same journalist from before included me in a new article about grayness without my permission, after I had stopped IDing as gray-area. (I mentioned this recently.)
  • We all know what else happened in 2011—(A)sexual on Netflix, the Tumblr explosion, and The Great Ace Hate (much of which, btw, originated on LiveJournal, not Tumblr)
  • When I asked Ily for some highlights to include in this post, she recounted an adorable story of one time when she got fanmail—someone sent her a book on “hug therapy,” and while she doesn’t remember when that happened, she said that it was “extremely sweet.” Aww.

You can see a trend of the blogosphere accumulating more and more voices and visibility, and bloggers beginning to collaborate more actively with one another—both within the ace community and in other communities. I recall several other points where we were acknowledged and had dialogue with individual feminists(/womanists), disability activists, and sex-positive bloggers that had less longevity—many of those blogs are now deleted, and since they were often personal blogs, I wouldn’t be comfortable linking to them anyway.

You can see us also gradually expanding our topics to explore intersectional issues, and focusing less on trying to pin down things like definitions, and what different kinds of attraction mean. For the first few years, I recall there being a lot more discussion of things like HSDD than there was later on, after it was settled that asexuality would get a mention in the DSM-5. Towards 2010-2011, I started getting a lot more people coming to me to ask advice, which I think reflects a widening audience. I think many others started coming to bloggers instead of AVEN for advice as well, which led to the creation of advice blogs.

It’s interesting—and annoying—that I found myself in the position of being quite possibly the most visible “gray-asexual” person for a little while there… even after I no longer thought of myself that way. I had to jump through some hoops to break that perception of me. That kind of visibility was never what I wanted, or expected. I mostly thought that I’d primarily be talking to other asexuals, with hardly anyone else taking notice. Since, after all, “nobody cares,” right? Ha.

I’ll leave that discussion for another time, though.

These days, the Ace Blogosphere is vast. There is truly no way to read it all. So now, we have to dedicate a lot more effort to curating posts for others to read. Back in the day, I actually used to use the WordPress tags to find new posts (and blogs) about asexuality. Hardly anyone does that now.

I think there’s still a lot more room for us to continue to grow. Certain perspectives still tend to be over-represented, while others are quiet. I’d love to hear from many more people—even if you don’t think you have anything “worthwhile” to say. Remember, I didn’t think anyone cared about what I had to say when I started blogging, either! I still don’t think my opinions are of especially great concern, really. I’m more interested in hearing what you have to say!

So consider writing something. The Asexual Agenda is currently looking for more contributors.

I’ll leave you with some sage advice from Ily: try to write “like no one is reading” and don’t worry about people judging you, because otherwise you might feel paralyzed. Getting over that “I’m not good enough” self-judgment and anxiety is often the hardest part. But you know what Ily said to me when I talked to her?  She said, “Since when were blogs supposed to be good?” And I thought, yes, exactly! You don’t have to hold yourself to a standard like that—just be yourself, and write whatever you think.

More people will care than you think.

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