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How bloggers fill in the “white spots” instead of scientists – using the example of Tumblr and the history of asexuality

Since scientific works on the phenomenon is extremely small, amateurs have come to the task.

A rally of queer movement in Brazil in the late 1970s. Photos of Fernando Ochoa

According to the May study The Pew Research Center, only 14% of American teens use blogging platform Tumblr. In the industry it is believed that the social network largely lost its popularity after the purchase of Yahoo in 2013. The shareholders considered the acquisition of the service one of the main mistakes of the management.

At the same time, Tumblr unexpectedly became a convenient platform for analyzing phenomena, which so far lacks reliable scientific works. Unlike the same Twitter, Tumblr has much more opportunities for such publications and almost no trolls. Thus, ordinary bloggers – from teenagers to authors in the region of 20 years – began to dig in the archives and “from scratch” to collect history on topics that are interesting to them.

The American edition The Outline told about the tendency on the example of the history of queers and asexuality – a phenomenon in which a person does not experience sexual attraction.

Bloggers in Tumblr do work that the academic community is not doing so deeply. Although the history of the term “queer” seeps into the mainstream, asexuality – and the term “queer” explains including it – is constantly excluded from the scientific discourse. Only a few scholars are actively studying the topic of asexuality, and there is not a single historian who would dedicate his work to monitoring the development of this phenomenon.

The Outline

An example of a new story told

One of the most famous British activists of the 19th century is Elizabeth Wolfstenholm-Elmy, whose story was re-told in the Making Queer History blog. She also advocated for improving the quality of education for women and called for them to vote in elections. In the 1870s she (being the head of the Committee on Women’s Affairs) became pregnant with the poet Benjamin Elmi – they were not married, but lived together. To avoid the development of a scandal, Wolfstenholm under the pressure of colleagues on the committee married Benjamin. However, the wedding was organized as a civil ceremony, the bride did not promise to “obey” the groom, refused to wear an engagement ring and retained the surname.

Elizabeth Wolfstenholm-Elmy. Photos from archives
Wolfstenholm-Elmi, most likely, did not define herself as an asexual. And although, as emphasized by The Outline, the term exists for about 20 years, modern activists from Tumblr were able to track the history of the phenomenon right up to it. Elmie was convinced that love can be as full and enjoyable as with sex, and without it. In her opinion , men who used women exclusively for sex, “destroyed their temple to a state where only animals can use it.” She preferred to base relationships on “psychic love” or “the realization of equality, justice and compassion between the sexes.”

Nevertheless, countless books and scientific articles described Elmi and her contemporaries as important to the history of British feminists, no source referred to them with the term “asexual”. Until early June 2018.

The Outline

June 3, in the Tumblr-blog Making Queer History , an essay with the statement that Wolfstenholm-Elmi is “a wounded asexual feminist whose critical statements about sexual activity are reflected in the modern asexuals movement” appeared. The author of the project is the 19-year-old sophomore student Daria Kershenbaum, who realizes herself as an asexual. Her publication became viral and spread to the most readable profiles on the platform.

In the Making Queer History blog, over 1200 entries – and the author is far from alone. According to the study of Australian sociologists, in Tumblr are concentrated to 64% of users 16-35 years old, who call themselves “quiri”. Not surprisingly, in the social network appeared “thousands” of blogs only on the topic of asexuality, including fuckyeahasexual , The Asexuality Blog , and Asexual People of Color . As noted by The Outline, young authors without a lack of experience are not united, they do not have a leader or a single representative.

Five stories from Tumbler, from which you can start learning about the topic

  • Sofia Parnok is a Russian poetess;
  • Virginia Woolf is a British writer and critic, author of “Mrs. Dalloway” and “On the Lighthouse”;
  • Edward Carpenter – English poet and philosopher;
  • San Domino – in the time of Mussolini, an island-prison for homosexuals, now the place of “power”, where representatives of the LGBT community often come;
  • Hamish Henderson is a Scottish poet and activist.


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