Ace of Hearts

Jonathan Shade

Jonathan Shade is a pseudonym.

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18 Responses

  1. Great piece. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and inner life with us.Report

  2. Maribou says:

    I really appreciate this piece, also. I’ve known a couple dozen asexual people over the years (part of the reason I tend to use the QUILTBAG acronym rather than the more common ones), covering pretty much the whole spectrum of the diversity you reference above – but of course I never want to push and pry into their orientation beyond affirming it and listening to what they choose to tell me. So I still have plenty of gaps in my understanding, even beyond what will just always be there because I’m not ace or aro myself.

    I’m grateful for your willingness to tell us about your own experiences.Report

    • Jonathan Shade in reply to Maribou says:

      It’s also perfectly ok that you don’t know everything about everyone’s experiences and I would say it takes a lot more courage to admit that than to admit your own. As for the whole QUILTBAG vs. LGBT+, etc. debate, I tend to prefer LGBTQ+ for two reasons: 1) because the + implies other options that take other letters beyond those eight (ESPECIALLY the P for pansexuals and polysexuals) and 2) because anything that includes LGBT is more easily recognizable than QUILTBAG.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Jonathan Shade says:

        @jonathan-shade oh, I don’t agree with that first comment about courage! I’ve been admitting ignorance since I could walk, it took me until 17 to come out as bisexual and nearly 40 to come out as genderfluid (well, I *TRIED* when I was four but that went about as well as you can imagine it going in a dysfunctional family in the early 80s). different for everyone, I’m sure, but for me admitting I don’t know things comes pretty easily. I’ll even do it when I do know things, just to fend people off, at times :).

        as for your acronym preference, I didn’t mean to criticize and your approach makes sense. personally I try to use a different acronym almost every time I use one to refer to the community at large, and then trust in people to make contextual sense out of it. so far people either don’t notice or don’t care. TBH when I use one that people don’t quite grasp in person or among good friends, they usually ask me to tell them what all the letters mean, which is an opportunity to raise awareness. Online I sometimes hear “So I googled that acronym and…”. Sometimes a little friction can go a long way to raise awareness.

        [And if I’m really even more honest than that, I must admit my fondness for QUILTBAG (or QUILTBAG+, depending) is partly due to coming up in the 90s and hearing EVVVVVVVVVVVVER so many masc cis gay men disdaining it purely for reasons of its ‘femmeness’, something it was still very popular for masc cis gay men to disdain back then. Not as in ‘I prefer not to use femme names for myself’ but as in ‘Our Community As A Whole Shall No Longer Be Seen as Femme in Any Way and You, Non-Man, Are Part of The Problem’ internalized misogyny stuff.]

        No better way to make me stubborn about something than to disdain it, so they set it pretty firmly in my vocabulary.Report

  3. Mike Schilling says:

    A lot of us learn about things we don’t experience first-hand from fiction. Is there a fictional portrayal of asexuality anyone would recommend as true-to-life? (The only one I know of at all is Todd in Bojack Horseman.)Report

    • Jonathan Shade in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      This is another great question! I don’t quite know if there are many good ones. I have never watched BoJack Horseman, I don’t have Netflix, though from what I’ve heard, it’s quite good. As for other characters, Jughead from the Archie comics is supposdely canon-aroace, though the show erased that identity (still is in the comics though). Though as for other characters, I’ve got no clue. I don’t watch much television or movies and I haven’t seen much excitement in the online community, so I don’t know. From what I can tell, representation is very mininal.Report

  4. Thanks for writing this. I know very little about asexuality, and I appreciate your taking the time to relate your experiences and to let us know some of what information is out there.

    I’ll also ditto Mike Schilling’s question and would be interested to know if you know of any good (or adequate) fictional representations.Report

  5. Em Carpenter says:

    This is an orientation that is talked about very little and probably very misunderstood or not understood at all by many (I count myself among them).
    Thank you for sharing your perspective.Report

  6. CJColucci says:

    If I may ask, how does asexuality come up in normal conversation? Do people ask about it? Do you believe it is something you need to tell people in order to answer other questions they might have some right to ask? How do people react? Hostile? Uncomprehending? Curious? Sympathetic? Do people seem to perceive it as a “problem” that needs solving. or just unusual in a purely statistical sense?Report

    • Jonathan Shade in reply to CJColucci says:

      It doesn’t often, mainly due to the fact that life for me and my particular group of friends has shifted away from the obsession (if there ever was one) over our crushes. As for what responses I’ve received, largely ambivalent to positive. Nothing negative yet though, which I’m very glad to report. I tend to bring it up when I feel the time is right, for one of my friends it was a couple days after I met him, for others it took a long while. I’m always open to telling people, but in many instances it does more to preemptively answer questions (other than my experiences) rather than leading to some questions I would feel uncomfortable answering.

      As for whether people consider it a problem, there are some corners of the internet which do (mostly due to their perception of it as an impossibility), largely because they perceive it as closet homophobia or just repression of sexuality. Statistically though, we’re rather small, the suggestion has been something around 1% of the population. (Though unless people are made aware of the definition of the term, they likely wouldn’t identify with it.) Therefore, it is statistically significant and not entirely unusual, it may just be a bit more rare than other orientations. Though as to whether it’s actually “unusual” at all will probably be figured out in the future. We just don’t know much about the actual statistics of the LGBTQ+ community in the larger population, I’m afraid. Maybe one day we’ll know, though I would wager it’s not all super statistically unusual.Report

  7. Burt Likko says:

    I join the chorus of my peers praising and thanking you for the glimpse into the ace experience.

    You don’t indicate where you are from, but if I may ask whether it’s an urban, suburban, or rural setting that would sort of color my vision of your experience. That’s because I recall a whole lot of superficial tolerance atop aloof disregard from urban areas, a whole lot of suspicion that with great effort might be overcome from my times living in rural areas, and a whole lot of need to categorize and rationalize and just plain misunderstanding things outside the traditional social rubrics from my time in suburban areas. What’s the blend of those waters do you feel you’ve had to navigate?Report

    • Jonathan Shade in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I live in a town that can be broadly deemed “suburban”, but actually predates the city we’re a suburb of. Either way, the main headwaters I’ve faced are not really suspicion, people took me at word when I told them. As for the faux tolerance, if there’s been any discourse among the people I know, I wouldn’t know it. Though I would say the outright homophobia and transphobia of people is the biggest barrier I see. It’s not something I can say with 100% is proof that they don’t accept me, but it does make one wonder that if they’ll poke fun at transgender people and other LGBTQ+ folks if they don’t feel the same about me.Report

  8. North says:

    Fascinating post Jonathan Shade, thanks for sharing your perspective. I’m curious as to if you could define what you’d say the asexual community’s “asks” a bit more? You defined 3 challenges:
    -American focus on hookup culture
    -Working to embrace diversity while also being as concise as possible about definitions, relative to the inclusivity of romantic orientations
    and building our infrastructure to get the message out
    I’m curious if you could elaborate more on what addressing those would look like policy wise. What would success look like?Report

    • Jonathan Shade in reply to North says:

      I would honestly say that policy wise my big goal is one that really does nothing to remedy the others but because this goal is so overwhelming to the overall goal of tolerance and acceptance it outweighs any attack on hookup culture. That would be getting the word out by including asexuality as a protected orientation under sexual orientation and gender identity statutes (since they often go hand-in-hand) and eventually including them under federal anti-discrimination statutes in the future.Report

  9. Dave says:

    Thank you for the perspective.

    I’m going to follow up on North’s comment and elaborate on my critiques.

    Having read more literature out of fat acceptance and related communities (BoPo/HAES, etc.), I’m very familiar with the framework of the first problem. Where I can understand how beauty standards and a general negative attitude towards fat people based on morality and health considerations, especially younger fat women, contribute towards attempts to lose weight that will leave them physically and psychologically broken, based on your feedback, I’m not sure where “dating culture”, an interesting euphemism for what people have been doing since forever, presents any more of an impediment than the fact that you represent a sliver of the population.

    I suppose this is an attempt to explain it:

    The problem with these is that they perpetuate a culture in which the physical act of sex is more emphasized than at any other time in our history. Where fifteen years ago, hook-up culture was more embodied in the local bar scene or at parties, nowadays it’s encapsulated in the internet. This contributes to asexual people’s difficulties by continuing to promulgate the very same structures which made our lives harder in the first place. To be clear, I have no problems with people on any site; their personal choices are simply none of my business. However, the American obsession with these sites, and with hooking up more generally, certainly doesn’t contribute anything meaningful.

    In other words, you have no problem with other people’s business unless other people’s choices either contribute nothing meaningful or make decisions to romantically hook up which contributes to your “difficulties”, which I can only ascertain as your inability to find suitable partners due to the fact that they want different things than you. While I’m sympathetic to your concerns, very much so, it’s the same bait and switch hypocrisy employed by the FA crowd when they claim that your body is your business but if you choose to intentionally lose weight, you are further contributing to diet culture, oppressive structures, etc. etc.

    Also, your argument suggests that we can treat things like physical attraction, sex drive and other things that drive romantic and intimate relationships as social constructs that can be waived away with the right social constructs. What’s your position on the arguments that suggest these things are innate or biological?

    I suppose I could categorically reject the entire culture framework but that would take too long to explain so I’ll leave it alone for now.


    The hurdle here is not necessarily “fixing” American culture, as much as it is in convincing broader American culture that we are here, we are significant, and we matter. As has been proven, if you can win the culture battle, you can win just about any structural war.

    You are here. You matter. You are significant. I respect you and your right to exist.

    To your second point, I think that is something you would be better at addressing than any of us. Besides, most people would look at diversity as a good thing because it brings more people into the community.

    To your third point, I’m puzzled because other activists seem to get their messages out in social media just fine. This:

    Sure, AVEN has social media, but social media is only effective when one is willing to work to build up a brand and…that’s not what AVEN has done outside of traditionally LGBTQ+ spaces already.

    I think you just solved your own problem, no?Report

    • Jonathan Shade in reply to Dave says:

      Not really, no. When I stated that AVEN had failed to build up a brand outside of LGBTQ+ places, I meant that if I polled 100 random people, I doubt a majority could tell me what it was. Though if I limited it to a random sample of LGBTQ+ individuals, they probably could. The issue is a) increasing awareness of the orientation at large and not just in the existing framework of the LGBTQ+ community and also working to fix the systemic issues that require us to have an Asexual Awareness Week and Aromantic Awareness WeekReport