Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Special Snowflake Shut-Down: Silencing Tactics of "Social Justice" Bloggers

Snowflakes: a sign of natural beauty since the dawn of time, until the Internet said "Screw that."
Way back in February, in my post "I Can't Ride in Your Little Queer Wagon," I mentioned a debate in Internet communities - chiefly the blogging site, Tumblr - about whether or not asexuals could claim the queer identity (too make a long story short for anyone who doesn't want to read the link, they can and anyone who says otherwise is being a bigoted jerk).  I made it sound as though the debate had ended.  It hasn't.  Discussing asexuality - or any minority identity - on Tumblr these days will more than likely lead to arguments, personal attacks, passive agressive tagging on a reblog of the post, and so on and so forth.  There are entire Tumblrs devoted to mocking people who dare identify in a way the other bloggers dislike, usually enveloped in social justice language, as if that makes it all right to kick a marginalized group in the face.  For an example, you can Google the Tumblr "Privilege-Denying Asexuals," since I'm not going to link to such prejudiced drek on my blog.

I was given a harsh reminder of just what a trainwreck Tumblr is when it comes to minorities and invisible communities on Sunday, when I dared to post about my sexual identity.  I was sick of seeing posts that suggested a person could not possibly be asexual if they had ever had or enjoyed sex, watched porn, sought out a sexual encounter, and a bunch of other nonsense that has nothing to do with whether or not an individual experiences sexual attraction.  I was especially sick of these posts coming from people outside of the asexual community.  So in my irritation, I put together a list of things that did not, no matter what others claimed, invalidate asexuality:
  • You can know that you’re asexual when you’re a teenager, just like you can know that you’re gay/straight/bi/pan/etc. when you’re a teenager.
  • You can masturbate and still be asexual.
  • You can have sex and still be asexual.
  • You can enjoy sex and still be asexual.
  • You can desire sex (sexual desire is not sexual attraction) and still be asexual.
  • You can watch porn and still be asexual.
  • You can write porn and still be asexual.
  • You can know you’re asexual without trying sex or masturbation first.
  • You can know you’re asexual without “getting your hormones checked.”
  • You can find people attractive and still be asexual.
  • You can make dirty jokes and still be asexual.
  • You can have kinks and still be asexual.
  • You can and should ignore dumbasses who tell you you’re too young to know if you’re asexual, or that you have no consistent definition of your sexuality, or that you’re an overly defensive special snowflake because you won’t allow them to police your identity.
  • You can and should tell the aforementioned dumbasses to pull their heads out of their asses and think before they speak.
For most of the day, the post went over well, receiving many likes and positive reblogs.  Then, toward the end of the day, an influx of negative responses rolled in, with various ignorant non-aces posting in ALL CAPS about how it was impossible to be asexual and have willing sex.  I had people respond to my post with pictures of snowflakes and mockery of my sexuality.  I had an extremely ignorant asexual poster (there is no shortage of bigotry and elitism in the asexual community, a topic I will eventually devote a post to) whine on and on about how asexuals can never, ever enjoy sex, and imply that because I suggested willing sexual encounters did not negate asexuality, I really just wanted to be as promiscuous as possible while still claiming a "cool" minority label.  When I responded that I was a virgin, a non-asexual blogger who I later found out also hates trans people and complains that trans women are appropriating the word "woman" (how charming) jumped on that, stating that I was admitting I hated sexually active asexuals by making a point to bring up my virginity.  When I denied that bit of idiocy, the poster kept harassing me until I apologized for daring to mention my celibacy, and, upon getting me to admit that it had been an irrelevant thing to bring up, called me a massive hypocrite.

Did I mention that the aforementioned poster carrying on about how much I hate sex-having aces was also one of the posters screaming in ALL CAPS about how real asexuals can never screw unless they're coerced?

After that experience of "what is even the hell," I washed my hands of the whole mess, blocked the bloggers who refused to stop harassing me, and deleted the posts from my personal page because I didn't want such bigotry and all around shitty behavior in my space.  That would have been the end of it, if not for a similar post today with responses from some of the same bigots, in regards to demi-aromantics and demi-asexuals, reading simply "no1curr."  Responses included the tried and trite "special snowflake," as well as whining about how asexuals, demisexuals, and the like were claiming that they experienced the exact same oppression as LGBT individuals, and trying to "steal the spotlight" from those with real issues.  Again, I started to walk away from the whole mess and possibly delete my account from the absurdly toxic environment that is Tumblr, but two things stopped me: the invocation of "special snowflake," and the claim of "no one cares."

But to get into that, I need to start a bit further back:

What Business Is It of Yours?

For any readers of this blog who don't spend a lot of time in queer spaces, you're probably wondering what I'm talking about when I mention demisexuality and demiromantics.  Again, readers of my "Little Queer Wagon" post will remember that I talked not only about asexuality, the lack of sexual attraction, but also about different types of romantic attraction, such as heteroromantic, homoromantic, or aromantic - experiencing no romantic attraction at all.  I myself identify as aromantic.  What I neglected to mention, however, is that are more variations in romantic attraction and within the asexual community than I had mentioned.

Under the asexual umbrella, there are the orientations demisexual and gray-asexual.  Demisexuals identify as between asexuality and sexuality, only experiencing sexual attraction with those they have a strong emotional connection to, such as a partner in a romantic relationship.  Gray-asexuals also consider themselves between asexual and sexual, and can refer to a multitude of identities, such as those who occassionally experience sexual attraction, those who have sexual attraction but a very low sex drive, or those who experience sexual attraction and drive, but not strongly enough to act on them, among others.  Likewise, demiromantics are those who only feel romantic attraction after forming an strong emotional connection.

"Now, wait," you may be thinking.  "Lack of sexual attraction, I get, but this is getting ridiculous.  Only feel romantic attraction after forming an emotional connection?  So just because they don't believe in love at first sight, they need their own orientation?  And now low sex drive gets its own orientation?  They don't need a label, they need Viagra.  And lots of people don't want to have sex until they know someone - what, are they saying everyone who experiences sexual attraction is just dying to screw everyone they come in contact with?  What sort of stupid, attention-whoring nonsense is this - "


Before you invalidate someone else's identity because it doesn't fit in with your worldview, think about it.  What business is it of yours?

There are lots of people in the world who love football.  They never miss a game when the season starts.  I have never in my life been able to wrap my mind around the appeal of football.   I don't understand how the game works, I don't understand the appeal of playing it, and I certainly don't understand the appeal of sitting and watching other people play it.  They only move the ball for a few feet at a time before they have to start and stop again!  How can anyone enjoy that?

But I don't seek out football blogs and tell the posters how stupid football is.  I don't post in the football tag in Tumblr about how football fans really hate the game and just want to look cool and knowledgeable about sports.  If I had an acquaintance who called himself as a football fan, I wouldn't call him a liar who wants to be special.  Because it's not my business how anyone else chooses to identify.  It may not make sense to me, it may seem stupid or silly, but it all boils down to one simple fact: it's not my business.

Demisexuality, gray-asexuality, demiromanticism, they may all sound strange to you.  But you aren't the one identifying that way.  To those who claim those identities, they feel that their experiences are different enough from the norm to merit a label and discussion.  And it's not your place to say that they should feel differently.  The only time that someone else's identity becomes your business is if they are using their identity to deny the rights of others.

But They're Using Their Identity to Deny My Rights!

This is the argument used by those claiming that asexuals, demisexuals, and gray-As are forcing the queer community to cater to them, and stealing the spotlight from important issues.  No.  No, they are not.  We don't want the community to bow to us.  We don't want our issues to take precedence over marriage equality, or hate crimes against LGBT people.  And we do not (short of very, very rare exceptions which should not be used to judge the majority) think that our issues are the same or equal to those faced by others in the queer community.  No one is saying that I can't get married.  No one will beat me for going out in public in clothing that matches my gender identity.  But the argument that those on the asexual spectrum are somehow "stealing the spotlight" is so absurd that it's laughable.

There is not a limited amount of attention that can be given to queer issues.  When the asexual community says "We exist and we have problems too," we are not somehow detracting from gay/trans/bi/etc. activism.  We don't want to take over the queer community.  We don't want to make everyone stop talking about sex or other issues because we think they're icky.  This is what the asexual community wants:

  • We want to be able to say "I am asexual/demisexual/gray-A/etc." without being met with blank stares, told that we are lying, repressed, religious zealots, abused as children, just got out of a bad relationship, just need a good screw, or any of the other ignorant statements used to belittle aces.
  • We do not want to be represented in the media as "lepers" or "dead, sick, or lying" (Thanks, Fox network!).
  • We want to be able to disclose our sexuality to medical or mental health professionals without said professionals blaming every problem on our sexuality.
  • We want hypoactive sexual desire disorder (a disorder with no use beyond pathologizing asexuals) removed from the DSM, just as homosexuality was removed from its list years ago.
  • We do not want to be threatened with "corrective" rape. (E.G., I'm going to force you to have sex to prove that you need it.)
  • We do not want asexual minors to be forced into therapy due to their sexuality by their families.
  • We do not want our sexuality to be denied because we're "too young to know."
  • We want discussion about relationships between asexuals and those with sexual attraction that does not boil down to "asexuals are frigid monsters trapping normal people in sexless relationships."
  • We want discussions of sex positivity and enthusiastic consent to discuss how these issues affect us.

Those aren't the whole of the community's goals, but they're a good overview.  Asexuals don't want to take over.  We don't want people to say "You have it just as bad as the gays!"  All we want is to be recognized and to have discussion given to our unique problems in addition to everyone else's.  How we identify is not up to you to police, and we are not out to steal your thunder and support.  So then why is the asexual community met with such vitriol?

No One Cares, Special Snowflake

Which brings me back to the Tumblr discussions that provoked this post.  "Social justice" communities, be it on Tumblr or any reach of the Internet, are often less about justice and activism and more about forcing one's view onto everyone else and shaming those who disagree into silence.  There are many tactics these bloggers use to shut up their opposition, ranging from saying that anyone who disagrees is a whiner who just got their "fee-fees" hurt to death threats.  I'll go over three of the most popular:

  • Oppression Olympics:  The idea that an oppressed group has more say in a discussion about oppression than a privileged group ( a valid idea in and of itself) taken to absurd extremes.  "Oh, you're a homeless blind lesbian but you're white?  Well, I'm a homeless blind lesbian of color!  Your opinion is invalid!"  This is often used to silence those on the asexual spectrum, because  these hateful bloggers will often claim that asexuals are not oppressed.  Never mind the very real discrimination we face; if it's not institutionalized oppression, it doesn't count.
  • Special Snowflake:  A perversion of the idea that "everyone is unique and beautiful just like a snowflake" by Internet jerks who think they're Tyler Durden, this is a way of dismissing a person's argument by claiming that they just want attention without addressing their arguments.  "I'm demisexual and you're making ignorant statements about my identity."  "LOL whatever, you special little snowflake!"  This tactic is stupid and it should feel stupid.
  • No1curr:  Another dismissal of an argument without addressing the point.  "No one cares, you loser, and if I don't care, I don't have to respond to any of the topics you brought up!"  
I'm using the asexual community as an example here, mostly because I'm a part of it and that's where I've seen the most stupidity online lately, but this applies to any group that people want to marginalize.  But here's the thing, and the point that got me started on this blog post in the first place:

No, Tumblr, you clearly do "curr."

The people who want to silence us insist on responding with hatred to our posts.  They invade our tags to tell us how little they think of us, or to laugh at our discussions.  They devote time and energy to following bloggers that they hate just to mock every post that challenges their prejudices.  They care.  They obsess over the identities that they want to belittle.  They claim, when their victims fight back, that they're the ones being put upon by special snowflakes trying to claim oppression.  Or they laugh and say they're above it all and just mocking idiots for fun.

But whatever their excuse, it couldn't be clearer that they care very, very much.  If it weren't important to them, they wouldn't make our identities their business.  They wouldn't waste time to make posts telling us that we're liars, or thieves, or that they don't "curr."

The truth is, they care about us.  They're afraid of us, afraid that by giving us attention, we'll somehow take the rights they fought for, or steal the attention that they want to keep to themselves.  As Dr. Anthony Bogaert states in the fourth chapter of his recently published book, Understanding Asexuality:

  "...An additional reason why some gay men may be opposed to accepting a 1 percent (or more) prevalence rate may concern justice sensitivity. Gay and lesbian people have often fought hard for the right to be accepted in Western society as a visible minority. Thus, although most gays and lesbians seem very accepting of sexual variations, some may be justifiably sensitive to issues related to their own rights and recognition. Now there is a new kid on the block, perhaps encroaching on their hard-fought and hard-won space. Does yet another sexual minority in some way diminish the status of the original sexual minority group? Perhaps some gays and lesbians believe so, if only on an implicit level. Relatedly, I expect that all humans, as social psychologists have argued, have a tendency to dislike the “out-group” and, sadly and concomitantly, to force to the back of the metaphorical bus ever more marginalized groups, even among those who believe that they themselves are near the back of the bus already."

 Well, sorry, ace-haters, but you don't get to tell me where I can sit on your magical bus of oppression.  You can treat us as badly as you want, but we're here to stay until the world recognizes us, and we're not following your seating chart.  And if that means you'll sneer at us and call us special snowflakes?  Well, coming from bigots like you, "special snowflake" is a badge of pride.


  1. I'm really sleepy now but I'll put down a few words to express how glad I am to read your blog.

    First I feel there's so much verbal violence on Internet and I find myself succumb to it so many times, i.e censor my feelings in fear of people judging me, putting me down with catchphrases. I also use catchphrases to put down other people as well to make myself look cool. Reading this post really clear my eyes.

    Second, it's the first time I read about 'demisexuals'. I felt skeptical at first but the reading on I found the description resonates with my experience. I'm 21 and still confused about my sexual identity. I know that I'm aesthetically attracted to almost everybody. But romantically I'm attracted to people with whom I have a deep emotional connection, including my two best friends, my brother, some close but not quite close relatives. I'm not freaked out but I'm so confused. Am I so lonely and desperate? But then when people outside my emotional circle show interest in me I'm very uncomfortable and run away. There's one time I confided to my best friend that 'I don't like it when people love me' she scoffed. I understood why she did. I knew what I said wasn't an accurate description of my orientation yet it felt so right.
    I felt relieved to have said it out loud finally, expressing what I felt without checking in my head how it would sound to other people. I've internalized a lot of verbal violence and policed my own feelings. When I like someone but don't feel the need to act on it I berated myself for being a coward and tried to act on it and did stupid embarrassing things and felt horrible afterwards and didn't understand why I felt so horrible.

    Upon reading this post I feel so relieved. So, thanks. I'm still not sure what's the fitting label for me but I felt relieved that what I feel is valid. Thanks.

    P/s: So much for 'a few words'. Guess a gate is opened in me or something haha.

    1. Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to write out such a thoughtful and personal comment. I was really afraid to post this for fear of attracting more of the awfulness that inspired this post in the first place, so I'm really happy that reading this was meaningful for you.

      I'm also really happy that reading this helped validate your feelings regarding your orientation. I know how frustrating and awful it can be to be confused about your sexual identity and to not have any words to describe what you're feeling, or to feel like you're the only person with those experiences. I wish I knew of some demi blogs to recommend.

      Again, thank you for your comment!

  2. Bless this post!
    I'm so tired of hearing people use the word "special snowflake" for my sexual orientation, as though being asexual is something I've made up to get attention. It really makes me feel sad and small (which is, obviously, the point) so thank you for having the courage to post about it!
    I've only known I was ace for a while, meaning that I always feel like I have to defend my orientation as a real thing. Thank you SO much for talking about how shitty it is that we feel like we have to defend it!

  3. Demisexuality is a real thing, but I don't give a *** if people believe or not. It is something I really need share only with the person I love.

  4. Unfortunately anymore I see a lot asexuals who even consider demisexuality made up or "special snowflake syndrome". Which seems so wrong as they're fighting to be recognized and seen as valid themselves.

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