Asexuals, Vegans, Atheists

I’ve hypothesized before that there is something in atheism that is inherently appealing to a certain class of shitty humans, and that therefore atheists will always be plagued by assholes – at least until such time as atheism becomes mainstream enough to turn off iconoclasts. But I wonder if the source of our asshole infestation might be something that plagues a few other communities.

When I’ve spoken with nice asexuals on here before, it seemed like they’d be surprised that any asexual has ever been an asshole about the subject. I’ve been personally offended by at least two asexual people I know (we were able to get past that) and seen a lot of examples presented by other people. My guess is that speaking about asexual feelings naturally tends to draw on the misogynist / puritan vocabulary established by our unfortunately very christian culture, and leads to them saying shit that comes off very rude.

And then there are vegans. It is incredibly easy to find examples of vegans being horrifying assholes, usually by curdling into emotionally violent misanthropes who believe all animals are sainted and all humans are sinners. But veganism is a very good idea. If enough people spurned beef, deforestation and global warming would slow measurably – not to mention a reduction in prion disorder and E. coli deaths, and if one has compassion for other species, a reduction in their pain and suffering.

Meat is one of the easiest to digest and most nourishing foods, so there are good reasons to not be an absolutist about it, but if one can, why not? And I’ve known vegans that aren’t jerks about it. But the assholes? More so than jerk asexuals, they’ve poisoned the brand. Vegans are maybe slightly better received in America than atheists, but only slightly if at all. Might be interesting to see the stats on that.

All three of these things involve negating a well-established and culturally accepted concept: sexuality, meat eating, and god belief. Could the fact these are negative propositions make it so that they all attract some amount of jerks? Or is it because they each represent communities at odds with the majority of the society they live in?

Some counterpoints, just in case they aren’t addressed in comments:

It could be offensive to lump asexual people in with communities established by choice, that asexuality is a fundamental character rather than a decision. I personally feel atheism is also something people can’t control except by bullshitting themselves – theistically inclined people trying to deny their fears, atheists “deciding to believe” or staying closeted for whatever social benefits that entails. Veganism feels more like a political stance than the others, but maybe some vegans feel differently. Either way, asexuals have a surer claim to it being part of their nature, and therefore unfair to talk about that as if it’s something that inherently attracts jerks.

I haven’t presented sufficient evidence of the jerks in each of these communities, the least with asexuals. Hard to dredge up the posts I’ve seen, but on a personal level, I’ve felt insulted by at least 25% of the ones I’ve known. Nonetheless, even if I hit you with one of those posts compiling asexuals behaving horribly, would that prove it’s really a problem? It would be very easy to paint transwomen as horrible people if I just went to one toxic hangout of theirs (I know of one) and compiled all the abuse coming out of gatekeeping and internalized misogynist types, encouraging eating disorders and suicide. Does that reflect a statistically noteworthy portion of their population? I really doubt it.

In conclusion, I could be talking out my ass, but then, I usually am, and any correctness I have is intuition plus broken clock timekeeping. Make of it what you will.


  1. Jessie Harban says

    Speaking as an asexual person…

    Not all ace people belong to asexual communities and those that do are not representative of ace people as a whole.

    Some ace people feel broken, as if not having desire for sex or attraction to others is some horrible disease, and generally don’t feel OK about being asexual until they meet other ace people and learn that this is just a thing.

    Other ace people (in fact, most ace people, from what I’ve heard) figure it out from early on and grow up being entirely copacetic with the fact that they don’t like sex.

    Asexual communities represent only the former group, or at least they represent the former group greatly disproportionately. After all, membership in asexual communities is self-selected and so there’s a massive selection bias towards people who needed a community to feel OK with themselves and learn they’re not broken. I’ve never tried to join any ace communities because, like, what would I talk about? We have basically nothing in common other than not finding sex inherently enjoyable and/or sex with specific people especially enjoyable.

    I have no way of knowing what, if anything, this has to do with the assholery levels, but I suspect a community formed entirely around the absence of something popular might naturally lend itself to assholishness. After all, if the only justification for your group is that you don’t enjoy sex or you don’t subscribe to a religion, it’s a very small step to hating the outgroup that does and it’s far easier to base a community around hating an Other than around not liking a thing.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    I know of at least one vegetarian who becomes physically sick from eating even traces of meat, and says she’s had that reaction all her life: definitely not a choice in one case (and not preachy about it either).

  3. says

    Presenting examples of assholery is important not to provide evidence, but to provide specificity. Even though it’s undeniable that there are a lot of atheist assholes, I still don’t trust someone who talks about some atheist asshole they encountered. Because for all I know, all the atheist did was tell them there is no god, or something else that I consider to be entirely reasonable. Mind you, GAS, I trust your judgment even if you’re not too specific. But it’s amazing how many randos expect me to take their side in a conflict they’ve barely described. If there are assholes everywhere, then there are also assholes in my comments trying to tell me that other people are assholes.

    Of course, providing specific examples comes with its own set of issues, and basically invites drama. Talking about assholes is hard.

    I have definitely encountered a lot of jerks in the ace community, although I think they are not the same kind of jerks you’re talking about. In the past I’ve personally been attacked by the ace equivalent of the Slymepit. As for veg*ans, they are so mainstream here in Berkeley that I’m more likely to witness omnivores being dicks to veg*ans.

  4. drken says

    As a vegetarian, I’ve met far more meat eaters who are jerks to me about it than other vegetarians that are jerks about it. I can’t really comment on Asexuals except to say that people are jerks and I’m sure you’ve got your fair share of them.

    But, Atheism seems to cultivate it. This made sense for a while. It takes a special sort of asshole to tell a Catholic Bishop that he’s thrown his life away on nonsense, but it’s important that somebody did. Otherwise “Are you saying I’ve thrown my life away on nonsense?” becomes a shut-down line. But, after a while you need people who are more diplomatic if you want to get things done. Unfortunately, the assholes are still in charge and have big platforms to keep themselves in the public spotlight while marginalizing anybody who doesn’t kiss their ass. It’s going to take a while before we can get them out. Or, at least give bigger platforms to our less obnoxious front-people.

    There’s also the issue with Atheism’s weird cousin, Skeptics. Probably due to the efforts of Penn Jillette, they attracted a lot of objectivists who viewed themselves as the “ultimate in rational thinkers”. I’m sure some of them are good people, but most of the objectivists I’ve met are sociopath wannabes who could lacked the neurological deficits to lose all empathy, so they found a philosophy that told them that acting like one would be for the common good. With the demise of the Randi foundation, where most of the biggest jerks made their home, hopefully they’ll be more scattered and able to do less damage.

  5. agender says

    I think it is because of early childhood experience with church hierarchy (I like to call such things behavioral imprint).
    New groups do not have a hierarchy, and very small groups are perceived not to.
    This attracts 2 different personalities or approaches:
    The first is a wannabe-leader. As soon as they recognize that the other group members do not submit, they bully.
    There is no possibility to predict the level of violence such a person is willing to use, but if they is doing it for the first time, and gets rebuked, they CAN try to go into psychotherapy or other counsel, and ripen. If they gets away with this, there is no chance of limiting the damaging behavior any more.
    The second personality is someone who is always on the lookout for vulnerabilities (in people, groups, patterns…). And non-hierarchical groups are perceived as perfect victims (this is not realistic, just an image in a mostly hierarchically organized society).
    EACH AND ANY reaction to the holier-than-thous or narcissists or rapist personalities (regardless of gender, only percentage higher in cis-males) “makes” (victim-blaming is a component of this) them behave shitty.

  6. says

    Jessie @1- Something that occurs to me reading your comment: I’ve heard many times that some atheists raised in powerfully theistic communities will feel broken and like something is wrong with them. Familiar.
        Also regarding the need for communities or lack thereof, the same can be said for lots of LGBTQI people as well – that aspect of your being isn’t necessarily enough to bond over. Some people also need to join forces for political and social protection, which can lead to clashes.
        I may have been using the word community gratuitously though. In my Rebirth of Dudebro post, I posited that jerk atheists can arise without any like-minded community, due to some undefined innate personality traits. Likewise, I wonder that some ace people without the vocab or knowledge of community could find themselves being noisy or churlish rebels. Like, people with the self-esteem to never suppose there is something wrong with them. “Lone sane man in a world gone mad” feels, if ye’ll excuse the dip into an ableist trope.

    Pierce @2- My dude has trouble with animal fat, but usually only if it’s loose – like in the form of grease or a fatty part of the meat, rather than marbled in. I think it’s a shortage of some kind of digestive enzyme. Everyone’s different, but I will say for a ton of people, meat is easier to digest than veggies by a lot. Cell walls / dietary fiber have a rep for being invariably good, but I’ve seen science that affirmed what I’ve seen with some people I know – For some people it makes constipation or other digestive problems much worse.
        I’ve met a lot of vegetarian or vegan people who aren’t waging personal war against all “carnists” and “bloodmouths.” I don’t imagine that the jerks are even a majority there, but they’re sure noisy.

    Sig @3- Hoping to avoid the drama u mentioned (I’m sure many ace folks are more considerate than these): “My kewl acebro character doesn’t have to waste time chasin’ some skirts” (Like sexual people invariably would be mindless zombies like that? Also are u from 1940?), “Why does everyone have to be gay in this story?” (Because the author is a gay person interested in gay stories?), “You’re ace-baiting, because character X is asexual but might not be aromantic” (I’m offended on behalf of romantic aces here, wtf.), “We don’t get AIDS, teehee” (Glad I haven’t personally run into that cold-hearted creepiness).

    drken @4- I think the vegans most likely to cause trouble are also animal rights extremists and human haters. I’d be very surprised if you’ve never at least seen reports of their shenanigans. Many omnivores do give veg people guff though, it’s true. They get a sort of “You think you’re better than meee?” thing going on.
    And skeptics, for rill.

    agend @5- There are definitely predatory personalities at root in the worst atheists, which might have to do with their heightened focus on the christian aspect of our culture. Don’t know if that applies to the other groups mentioned, but then, my thesis linking these could be wholly invalid anyway.

  7. says

    GAS @6,
    Yeah those examples sound like things I have also heard. Although, it’s funny, the asshole ace comments that stick out to me the most are always the ones that engage in ace identity policing. Obviously because identity policing is personally relevant, while allo-unfriendly comments are not personally relevant. You’ve given me something to think about, thanks!

  8. witm says

    I think your sample sizes for other communities is probably too small to make a concerted and relevant comparison.

    I’ve met about the same proportion of teachers who are assholes or co-workers who are assholes and religious people who are assholes as atheists/skeptics/whatnots (I only know one asexual, and she’s mostly ok). It may have more with the form that the assholery takes, than anything else. It’s a matter of volume, timing, your personal sensitivity whether something is particularly offensive or annoying. We can do the math for the number of hardcore asshole catholic priests, and it’ll come in at about 10-20%, the form of their pain in the ass behavior is just different.

  9. says

    sig @7- You’re welcome. The reverse is true with me – I don’t feel the same level of offense when ace people are getting slighted as I do when it’s people closer to me in the rainbow, but I like to think I’m getting better at taking care with that in places I moderate or curate. Like, I add people to my blocking plug-in for being anti-ace, in order to keep from accidentally reblogging a cute animal pic they posted & giving a click-happy ace follower an eyeful of creepiness.

    witm @8- Could very well be. Our experiences may be different, but mine could easily be the outlier.

  10. Lurkerson says

    You totally know who I am, but I’m using a secret ID

    I’m asexual. Something I’ve noticed about the “ace community” (on Twitter, at least) is it’s quite divided internally. I actually read/receive comments from non-white ace people who say that they don’t feel comfortable in the “community” (something also common to atheism – HM!). What do they mean by community? I dunno, dominant voices, maybe? I guess that’s what I mean, too, but as earlier discussions note, it’s nebulous.

    I don’t follow the Western concept of romance, which makes it difficult to fit in with the subset of ace people who *very much* emphasize romantic orientation. Like, I definitely respect them, but I feel uncomfortable when they don’t respect me & insist to know my romantic ID. Also, there’s a whole concept of duality/partnership in my culture that is fairly unique (our pronouns go like “I, you, they, them two, us two”) and doesn’t quite fit with romantic partnership but isn’t “queer platonic.” In any case, I’d like more intersectionality, pleees.

    Then again, the ace community is supportive in one way: it is RIDICULOUS how often my peer group will straight up lecture (mostly women) who don’t reproduce and make loooots of descendants for cultural survival. They sometimes play it off as joking. Sometimes. Lately, I’ve noticed the trend shift into disdain for people who don’t have sex (no matter the reason). And this comes from all sorts of IDs. I saw this from a gay acquaintance two days ago. I understand where it’s coming from, but it’s also not cool to deflect the horror of colonization-driven cultural death on the shoulders of a very small minority. It makes certain aces super defensive. Not me, tho. Sex positivity is key, and I’ve blocked people who disagree with that.

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