The Ace Project with Stonewall and Yasmin Benoit

I have chosen to go with the term ‘ace’ for this blog simply for ease of writing, although like so much of the language promoted by LGBTQIA+ lobby it really is a misnomer, since ‘ace people’ may or may not be sexually active. Asexual-identifying would probably be more correct.

About the event

Today is International Asexuality Day! It’s a day to celebrate, raise awareness, and advocate for asexual (ace) people.

While awareness of ace identities has increased over the last few years, there’s still a worrying lack of understanding of the needs and experiences of ace people, who are often subject to dehumanising myths and misconceptions.

The Government’s National LGBT Survey showed that ace people face prejudice and discrimination: nearly 9 in 10 ace respondents had avoided being open about their sexual orientation, and 10% had been offered or undergone conversion therapy.

Despite this, there’s very little understanding of the needs of ace communities, and of asexuality, which isn’t currently regarded as a sexual orientation under UK law, but rather listed as a hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

That’s why today, we’re proud to be launching the Ace Project, a new research initiative to better understand the experiences of ace people in the UK, in partnership with pioneering ace activist Yasmin Benoit and Pink News.

Research conducted as part of this initiative will build a picture of ace communities’ experiences, needs, and priorities for change, with a focus on employment, healthcare, and education.

Our findings will be launched in a report which will provide a clear set of actions for policymakers, companies, and charities to better support ace people.

We’re looking to speak to those on the ace spectrum in the UK who have experienced any degree of acephobia in higher education, healthcare, or the workplace. If you’d be interested in sharing your experience in one of our focus groups, please contact yasmin.benoit@stonewall.co.uk.

Email from the Stonewall Team

I learnt about the Ace Project from Stonewall’s newsletter with the entreaty to log onto TikTok the very same day to witness its launch. A few hours notice is curiously belated. It’s almost like they were embarrassed about it. On social media there was little fanfare. What ever happened to pride?

Yasmin Benoit is the Z-list sleb they’ve teamed up with. And Penis News. Most of my followers will be aware of who Benoit is, but in case you don’t, she is a spectacularly shallow young woman who spends most of her time fannying about in sexy underwear, trying to convince anyone who will listen that she is asexual (a bit like the word trans, it covers the whole gamut of ace identities, from complete asexuality to sexually active), and as I learnt that day, also aromantic (someone who doesn’t have romantic feelings, but may have sexual ones).

Yasmin has a partnership with Ann Summers! Ann Summers has a contract with Stonewall. O happy days!

So I signed up for TikTok. Some of the very first videos they showed me were women twerking. How apt then that this was the chosen medium to discuss asexuality on.

The webinar

It was jointly hosted by Stonewall and Benoit but the platform appeared to have been Stonewall’s choosing, since Benoit told us she had never done a live broadcast on TikTok before. Clearly Benoit wanted it known she was an equal in this partnership – and who could disagree?

The woman hosting on behalf of Stonewall was Quinton, their video content creator. You know, Stoneall couldn’t even be bothered to wheel out a policy person for the launch – much less a senior director – , instead leaving it to a junior member of staff, who works on the technical side of things, to interview Benoit.

Stonewall had collated questions from followers on social media and came up with this riveting set of enquiries.

The interview

What was Yasmin’s activism story?

Benoit began activism at Uni, when she also started modelling, and spoke at the first ever UK Asexuality Conference. Things snowballed from there and by the time she left Uni she had a ready made career as an asexual activist lingerie model. Benoit told us she’d received a very positive response to the Stonewall project so far that day. She now has her own email at Stonewall, so I guess that means she is officially on the payroll.

What is the definition of asexual?

It’s the lack of sexual attraction to anyone, regardless of their gender, Benoit told us.

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton.

Do you have a different definition of what that means to you personally?

Benoit repeated that her sexual attraction isn’t orientated towards anybody, but seemed to infer that she does have sexual feelings.

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton.

Please explain the spectrum of ACE identities.

Asexual people might only be ‘demi’ or ‘grey’ which means they do experience sexual attraction some of the time, but it was quality not quantity, said Benoit.

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton.

Benoit also said that most aces have differing experiences. For example, some asexual people have sex, but she doesn’t.

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton and professed that she had never heard anything about the different types of asexuality before. Presumably she was asleep at the wheel then when making this video. Oh, and this one.

How does asexuality intersect with the other strands of LGBTQIA+?

Well, you might be greysexual (i.e. someone who experiences limited sexual attraction) and attracted to someone who is ‘the same gender as you’, or trans and asexual. The main focus in society was on romantic attraction, Benoit told us in what she thought was a very important point, forgetting that the main component of romance is that it involves sexual attraction. For example, no one would describe themselves as having a romantic dinner with their mother or father, because that would imply sexual affection.

Is it true that a black ring is a recognised sign of someone being ace?

Although this was a common thing aces do, don’t automatically assume they are, Benoit told us.

(Good advice, it turns out, as it’s also apparently something swingers wear.)

What were the myths and stereotypes about ace people?

Oooh, so many, said Benoit, rattling off a list: A presumption of mental illness and/or past trauma, that someone might be a difficult personality, or too picky, or even someone going through a phase, being a prude, or being a narcissistic shit bag attention seeker (okay, I might have added that last one).

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton.

What advice do you have for young ace teens coming out to their parents?

Show your parents an article on the subject to prove that it’s not a made-up experience (I just know she wanted to add ‘read one of mine’, but daren’t).

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton and added asexuality clearly wasn’t a social trend.

What advice do you have for people who think they might be asexual?

Don’t place too much emphasis on it, came the maddening answer from Benoit, who is a mascot for asexuality and International Asexuality Day, and feasting like a maggot on her crumbs of publicity.

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton.

How do you tell your co-workers?

‘The same technique as I would with parents,’ said Benoit, ‘send them an email’. In the email would be an article which would explain all about asexuality and then if they had any questions they could ask you.

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton.

Are there are any organisations that you work with?

Yes, Benoit is a board member of the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), which is the longest running org for the ‘community’ having been around since 2001 and has an active forum.

What about ace joy?

That’s all about contentment and not caring what people think, Benoit explained (which must be why she tweeted her followers about my briefly criticising her once in a blog).

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton.

What can allies do to help?

Make sure that aces are included at all times. And also:

… look inwards and think more deeply about your own sexuality and the things you take for granted. For example, we are not really taught to differentiate between sexual and romantic attraction and this is something people can find quite perplexing when asexual people talk about that.

Yasmin Benoit’s advice to allies

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton.

As I have already said, there is no romantic attraction without sexual attraction, any children watching would be misled by this, especially as some may not have reached puberty and/or had any sexual experiences with which to challenge such an assertion. Benoit had also forgotten that if she had never experienced romantic or sexual attraction, she wouldn’t be in a position to know how they differed. Doh!

What are your hopes for the future?

Benoit wants asexual people to have more representation, legislative change, change in education, better healthcare, including the scrapping of asexuality as a ‘sexual desire disorder’. Workplaces should also ensure that their asexual staff are protected – these were all things the project would address.

She also wanted more ace representation when it came to ‘research, academia, and literature’. Once these things had been achieved, asexuality would be normalised throughout all society and the culture would change for the better.

‘Amazing,’ said Quinton.

Do you feel that asexuality and other orientations have a different consensus based on religion?

Benoit claimed that asexuality was a sexual orientation regardless of your religion, and if your religion valued chastity, then so much the better for you. Crucially though religious hierarchies didn’t realise that ace people were actually queer – if they did, then such religious credibility would be in tatters.

It seems a strange knee jerk reaction to have to those who are religiously chaste and likely do have very low levels of libido. Yet another example of the hostility the LGBTQIA+ lobby fosters towards their own and sounds very much like internalised acephobia to me.

Has there been a shift in attitudes towards the community?

We were still very much in the introductory phase, though there were more aces on social media, media representation was still poor.

Was there any good media representation of the ace community?

Apparently the cartoon character Todd from BoJack Horseman is an asexual character and Benoit said that asexual people were consulted on that character. BoJack Horseman is an 18 rated cartoon series.

I honestly can’t tell if they’re taking the piss or not.

The Ace Project

It was an ‘asexual rights initiative’ aimed at changing legislation, namely the Equality Act 2010, which currently ‘didn’t protect’ ace people. It was the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

Benoit told us she has two degrees, one in sociology and the other in crime science and was interested in social science. Interestingly she told us she had ‘always wanted to get into a think-tank’, but competition was tough (and let’s face it, she’s a bit thick). Benoit would be carrying out the research herself and her express hopes were to find examples of ‘acephobia’. Anyone could take part in this research, providing they were UK residents and over 18, which was rather negated a few minutes later by the revelation that focus groups would be online only and you didn’t even have to give your real name or have your camera on. Participants would also be remunerated and it wouldn’t take much time. The groups would be led by Benoit herself.

Benoit wants examples of discrimination from school, the workplace, and healthcare. We were not to worry if these were only micro-aggressions, all experiences were equally important. Benoit said that asexual people were pathologised and that they were ’10 percent more likely to be offered or undergo conversion therapy’. Actually the introductory email states that 10 percent had been offered or undergone it, not that they were 10 percent more likely to experience it (that cross is surely reserved for trans people).

‘Wow, that’s really surprising,’ said Quinton in a surprise twist, adding that she had no idea that asexuality was considered a medical condition, which must be a lie because it was in the email that was sent out about the project. Doh!

Hands up who can see a future scenario where people who want to increase their libido being denied help because healthcare professionals might be accused of conversion therapy?

Let’s also not forget that there is a cohort of children now who will have experienced the full effects of puberty blockers and surgeries to their sexual reproductive systems, who will be unable to experience sexual stimulation. Is this who this project for?

Benoit told us that the language that asexual people sometimes use to describe themselves and that of hypoactive sexual desire disorder ‘sounds exactly the same’, which was an issue.

We also learnt that we could find our fellow aces online, in the exciting worlds of Discord, Facebook, etc. Benoit, however, doesn’t search for her community, but is being found, such is her elevated status.

The focus groups would held this Summer and Benoit hopes to get the report out at the end of 2022. The report was the first stage in a longer initiative. The aim was for ‘total asexual equality’. Presumably there will be a demand to recognise asexual marriage, or maybe not, it’s all very curious.

Predictably Quinton also found this ‘amazing’ and all that was left was for Benoit to shuffle her breasts about in her tiny top and bid us goodbye.

Over 11.5k people had watched the live broadcast. Now that truly is amazing.

Wonder who funded it then? Do we have the right to know?

Aces on twitter

Below are a range of messages posted on International Asexuality Day, plus a convo between Penny Dreadful and a man who identifies as ‘aroace’. As you can see they vary from non-sexual flat cartoon art to explicit, some hint at fetishism. In the HRC article we learn that allosexual is the opposite to asexual, another binary in the vein of the ‘cisgender/transgender’ invention. And this is what Stonewall wants to focus on now? I mean, really?


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One comment

  1. So when did not being all worked up about sex become an ‘orientation’? Everybody has periods in their lives where other things are much more important. And what is the dehumanising and discriminatory behaviour that people who are not bothered about sex are being subjected to? In all my decades of life I have never witnessed or heard of such a thing. And since when did it become acceptable to regale one’s work colleagues with details of one’s sexual interests or lack thereof? Methinks the individual in the purple undies wants to be a social media celebrity but has nothing in the way of meaningful talent upon which to base her bid for stardom.

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