The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) is the world’s largest asexual community. It provides information for asexual people, their family and friends, researchers and mass media. Its founder, David Jay, America`s best known asexual person, gave speech on everything from MTV to France 24. Sounds really cool! However, it wasn’t always like that.

He found the site when he was 18, as he wanted to find out if there were any people like him. And now, thanks to Jay, it is more than 60000 members community, where people discuss their asexuality in dozen of languages.

Aven Community Founded By David Jay

 

Briefly: What it feels like to be asexual?

To cut a long story short, asexuality is an absence of sexual attraction. Asexuality is not a disorder of a hormone imbalance. It is also not a choice or a celibacy.

Asexuals are not afraid of sex or relationships – they just don’t have interest in sex. However, some of are sexually active (it can be due to social pressure or for the sake of their love). Many asexuals think that having sex is great, but for those who really like it, but have no wish to experience it themselves. Some of them have romantic relationships, others don`t. Basically, there is no special type of asexual person.

Although asexuals do not have sexual desire, they still want to build warm relationship, partnership and human companionship. They want to connect with people but they just don`t want to express their feelings sexually.

Modern world dictates precise standards of relationship: there’s so much sexual subtext in it. Sex is described like an essential part of any close, meaningful relationship. So here`s where the contradiction appears: asexuals can`t provide that significant part and conclude that thus they cannot have relationship. This results in loneliness and depression.

Aven Community Founded By David Jay

 

A problem out of nothing?

So, now you may feel a little bit confused. These guys don`t have to experience the sexual issues most of us have. Isn’t it convenient? Well, what`s the big deal? Why do they need to form a special community around asexuality? The community is often appears, when a group of people has a common struggle. So, what`s theirs?

“Being asexual makes you wonder whether you`ll ever be able to form relationships. And it makes you afraid whether you`ll be able to experience this sense of connection.

Aven Community Founded By David JayWe felt broken because the feeling of connection is tangled to sexuality, that we didn`t understand. The reason why the asexual community came together has to do with the fact that our struggle for connection is tangled up in a culture of sexuality”, – answers David Jay in one of his public talks.

 

Charming, handsome, asexual

David is one percent of the population that identify themselves as asexual. That means that he is also not interested in sex and feels great without it. This fact is shocking to many people, who see this handsome and charming man.

The first time Jay felt, so to say, out of the loop, was in the middle school. Do you remember these times? First dates, endless discussions about who you thought was hot, awkward attempts at kissing and holding hands… But David couldn`t get it.  “I didn’t have a reference point to understand what they were going through. And that’s really terrifying, because everyone assumes that’s what should be happening for you”, – he recalls.

 

For a couple of years I just assumed that I was broken

Aven Community Founded By David JayIn context of sexuality, a person, who doesn`t relate to sex in any way seems somewhat defective. And because connection is associated with intimacy, passion and sex, those, who don`t feel it, can`t have normal relationship. 18-year-old David Jay also felt that way. Once he wondered, if there were any people like him. He came across the site about asexuality. Some time later, in 2001, launched an online community AVEN, because he wasn`t alone with his problem. And thousands of people had the same overwhelming and strange experience.

“I had spent the past four years struggling to realize that I was okay, and I didn’t want other asexual people to have the realize the same thing”, –  Jay says.

 

Bringing asexuals together

Imagine that critical moment, when one suddenly understands that something is wrong with his life and his sexuality. As he has no one to turn to, he starts typing the word “asexuality” into a search engine. David Jay in his school years couldn`t find anything apart from dry scientific articles. Then he launched the asexual community in order to help people, desperately searching for answers to disturbing questions on the Internet.

The website soon filled with various stories of hundreds and later tens of thousands people. And they understood: one percent of population was still a lot. David Jay recalls:  “The early stages of community are deeply empowering for hundreds of people. I`m really humbled to witness it, to be a part of it. And there was that overwhelming feeling of validation, a finding other people like them. And they just gave their entire life story. They talked about how they felt alone in the world, they felt broken. And now when they found the community of people like them, they didn`t feel like they were struggling by themselves”.

Aven Community Founded By David Jay

The community has two central missions. The first one is to create public acceptance and discussion of asexuality. People discuss asexuality not only on the web forum – free space for sharing experience without any kind of judgement. The AVEN community provides various educational activities: distributing informational pamphlets, leading workshops, arranging meetups and speaking to press.

The second goal is to develop an asexual community. Its founder working on putting the asexual orientation on the map. He is also striving to change the attitude of medical community towards asexuality. Asexuality is listed in medical journals as the mental disorder “hypo-active desire disorder”. David Jay believes that the frames of “mental health” should be reconsidered.

Aven Community Founded By David Jay

Sense of relief

Not all the places on the Internet give people that comfortable environment that is necessary for sharing. Luckily, AVEN is always open to new members – asexuals and those, who are interested. Mark Carrigan, the researcher from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom says: “There had to be something about [asexual people’s] experience that led them to want to have those conversations in the first place”. Asexuals have their own struggle – a strong desire for connection without expressing it sexually in the world, obsessed with it.

Curious fact: The symbol of the asexual community is a slice of cake with white frosting and a strawberry on top –  a symbol of celebration.

AVEN turns a feeling of defect into a positive identity. According to David Jay, the asexuality movement should take over a “third phase”: distributing mainstream beliefs about what a “normal” sex drive and life looks like and investigating the nature of relationship. We need to understand how relationship operate in order to disentangle sexuality and connection. However, there is far more work to be done.

“It’s not that we talk about sex too much”, – Jay says. “It’s that we celebrate sex in a way that is inauthentic. If we were to have a widespread, accurate discussion of sexuality – all the things that it means and doesn’t mean to people — that would include a discussion of the fact that sex is not interesting to everyone at some points, and that’s okay, and sex is not interesting to some people all the time, and that’s okay. Instead, I think what we have is a dialogue that fetishizes and celebrates sexuality, and equates it with the sum of our value and relationships”.

Aven Community Founded By David Jay

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