Comments on survey design

Because this survey (on “sexual and asexual relationship dynamics” from Ball State University) did not have any option to leave comments on the design of the survey and what the questions were supposed to mean at the end, I’m going to just leave my comments here. I started copying and pasting questions into Notepad somewhere in the middle of the survey, so these are only some of the issues I had with this survey. I surely have forgotten others. At the end, I will mention the way the survey handled consent, but I’m mostly not focusing on that.

I want to preface this by saying that I am really annoyed by MOST surveys, I just don’t typically have the time to comment on them like this, and when there is an option to share comments about the survey within the survey itself, there is usually no need to share those comments publicly. This survey is not even remotely exceptional or surprising. More discussion of asexuals’ responses to academic surveys can be found in a fairly recent Asexual Agenda question of the week. I hope that people who research asexuality consider these problems when designing surveys in the future. Honestly, these are mostly problems that testing with a focus group could have helped iron out. It is very frustrating that these issues don’t ever seem to be corrected before the surveys are sent out.

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New Adventures in Polyamory

Yesterday, I got to meet my fiancée’s new girlfriend.

Since we’ve been together, C has dated several different people, but up until now she’s only done long-distance relationships with people other than me. Those relationships never made me jealous, but because they were LD, I never thought that would be an issue. I always kind of wondered whether or not I’d start to feel jealous if she managed to find someone who was local, but so far, I’m pleased to report that it hasn’t been an issue at all. It’s been about 3 weeks now, so it could certainly still come up, but I don’t think that it will.

In fact, it’s kind of interesting. There are a lot of similarities between my first dates with C and her first dates with her new girlfriend, including (in part) the location. This is another girl that she can spend hours talking to without wanting to go home. She also seems to have a lot of similar interests as me.

But what’s really interesting is how we’re different. For all that I used to wonder whether I really counted as asexual or not, in comparison to her, it’s pretty clear that I don’t experience sexual attraction. C, for her part, says it’s really weird because she’s not used to dating sexual people, and forgot what they were like. Now she’s in the position of trying to decide what she’s ready for. Despite saying that before she met me, she didn’t know if she could date an asexual person, she’s been telling me lately that she’s glad that I’m asexual!

So all in all, being polyamorous has been working out just fine for us. I have actually gotten more enjoyment and amusement from hearing stories about her other partners than jealousy.

One of my absolute favorite things about being poly, though, is that I get to read all the really bad OKCupid messages that C gets. Seriously, they’re fantastic. She’s been compiling a list of the particularly bad ones. Here’s an example:

hi
Oct. 20, 2010 – 8:49pm
How was your day? One of our medics used me as an example demonstrating the efficiency of 14 gauge needles, it looks like a juice box straw if you do not know, it was crazy the blood flow. Got to go talk to you later.

That was sent to her by a complete stranger, whom she had never talked to before. Another person she had never talked to before asked her this:

Hey
Apr. 25, 2010 – 12:42am
Hey how are you? How many times a day you like sex?

Or how about this one?

YOU
Nov. 15, 2010 – 11:38am
Hi… I am Marc… [Name of City we live in]… Interested?

Or this:

hi
Aug. 15, 2010 – 2:30pm
Hi Im dave a 38 yr old married 6’2 240 i saw ur pic and thought u were very attractive ;) msg me if u want to chat ;)

I don’t know what’s with describing his appearance, but this other guy felt the need to do it too:

hey
May 13, 2010 – 9:08pm
hi it roger 29 5’9 140 brown hair hair and eyes very outgoing down to earth very fun guy to be with i have 7 brother and 2 sister well i love to travel i love to party well i have a good job well i own my house in [misspelled place name] well i love my job on Base well i am a very open person well want to know anything just ask

Roger

And perhaps the most pointless message of them all:

Hey
Aug. 22, 2010 – 3:25pm
I haven’t heard of any of those bands. Maybe I should check them out.

Guest Post: Why Date An Asexual? An Interview with C

Since I started hosting guest posts, I’ve been bugging C (aka Cat Pajamas), my partner of roughly 3.5 years (and now gayancée), to write one for me. She couldn’t come up with any ideas for the longest time, and so to help her out and make it more comfortable for her, I sent her a bunch of interview questions to answer. If the questions don’t seem to flow from one to another very well, that’s because they were asked in no particular order, just as I thought of them, over email and rearranged later. She’s really worked hard to get her thoughts down and then organize and clarify them better. I’m afraid she found my questions rather frustrating, because they were hard to answer without writing book-length responses. I love that her tendency is to go into great detail about these things… and scribble huge diagrams on my white board about them, too! <3

We don’t often hear much from sexual partners of asexual people, so my hope here is to do a little bit to fill that void. C has another post that she’s working on about sexual attraction as well. If anyone has questions for her that aren’t answered here, feel free to ask in the comments!

From here on out, my questions and comments will be in purple text.

*************

Hi, I’m a 26 year old MTF.  I love to talk about sexuality and some other topics.  I believe I have a very in depth experience with both sexes because I’ve gotten to experience being gay/lesbian/bi in both genders, which is pretty cool and fun to talk about since I think it’s a perspective not many people get to fully experience.

So, if you read that the same way I did, that means I’m at least 200% gay.

Besides sexuality, I have a rather large interests in PC gaming and some outdoorsy hiking/camping stuff.

Can you briefly explain how we met, and how we sort of accidentally ended up in a romantic relationship?

We ‘met’ through a mix of an LGBT group at the university we both went to and me messaging you on OKcupid. Sadly I don’t remember why I messaged you initially, although I do know I was fairly curious about asexuality. We talked online for a time before we decided to go see a movie as friends. The movie wasn’t supposed to be romantic (kung fu panda) and my plan was to just take you back to your place afterwards, but you wanted to just sit around and talk. So we went to a uh, tea/sandwich place that’s kinda artsy and we just sat around and talked.

As it turns out, if you go to see a movie with someone and then talk to them for about 5 hours afterwards and you can’t say good bye, you’re probably doomed to start some sort of romance, whether you intended to do it or not.

Before you met me, if somebody had asked you, “Would you ever date an asexual?” how would you have responded?

I would probably respond with “I’m not sure.” At the time I wasn’t really aware of asexuality and without some information about it or the person, I would probably not do anything. Although I like people that are different from the norm.

If someone asked me that before I started transitioning, I probably would have said “no” since I was quite a bit more sexually active at the time (and ignorant). Once I started transitioning, it would have certainly been closer to a yes (still based on ignorance).

What did you think when you first encountered my profile on OKCupid, and in the early part of our relationship thereafter? Why did you contact me?

When I first encountered it? Who knows! At this point, I’m not sure if there was a reason I messaged you for reasons other than “I don’t know what asexuality is” and I think we had some music groups in common.

I’m pretty sure the reason I messaged you was mainly because of asexuality, since I wasn’t really aware of it and I wanted to know more. I don’t recall wanting to date you. ;)

How did you expect things to proceed? What things surprised you?

Well, ignoring the whole “What? We are dating?” thing… I fully expected the relationship to develop very slowly sexually, so I tried my best to go very slowly. Since usually my relationships have a very sexual nature to them.

What surprised me is how comfortable you were with certain kinds of play. Also how open you were/are to various sexual activities. Based on my (old) knowledge of asexuality, I would have imagined you to be a uh, prude. Thankfully that’s not the case.
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Romantic Initiatives, Part I

So, Ily got me thinking with her comment on my last post and subsequent post about how it all started, and I think that’s a worthy topic to explore. I have been one of those people who goes, “Uhh, I don’t know, it just sort of happened,” when it comes to the question of how I started dating C. Maybe explaining the circumstances of our first meetings will help both to elucidate how a friendly outing can unexpectedly turn romantic, and to give me some much-needed perspective on what we started with, and how we ended up this way. I have a lot to say on this topic, so I won’t try to say it all in one post!

It was just over a year ago, now. The girl and I would have celebrated her birthday two days after she broke up with me, and our first anniversary the day after that (if we bothered to celebrate it, that is; she doesn’t like to celebrate arbitrary dates, but I think it might as well be an excuse to have fun–but so much for that idea!). We met on an internet dating site, but it had never been our intention to go on a date. It was supposed to have been an innocent friendly outing to see Kung Fu Panda at the dollar theater, and that was all. “I’m going to be too shy to talk to you when we meet,” she told me over IM. I didn’t quite believe it, because we had already had several fairly long and interesting conversations before, just not in person. And, sure enough, after I suggested that we go and get something to eat–since I was interested in actually getting to know her, albeit as a friend and not a date, and 90 minutes in a dark room just sitting next to one another and watching a movie didn’t really give me that opportunity–sure enough, we got to talking.

And after we had gone through a pot of tea at the local hippie New Age gay-friendly tea and trinkets shop, we didn’t want to stop. So we didn’t. I said that we could stop by my dorm and grab the moldy bread that I had been meaning to take out to the pond, and feed it to the ducks. We kept on talking and talking, and when we were done with the bread we started wandering around campus together. We wandered vaguely in the direction of her car but then never went to it. We kept circling around it, until it was more than obvious that neither one of us wanted her to leave. We kept ending up near the dumpsters, which spawned an inside joke about dumpsters being super romantic.

We talked about all sorts of things, dating being one of them. I told her I didn’t understand how dating worked, and had never really been on an actual date before. I didn’t really know what they were like; all I knew was that traditional dating seemed so structured, so overly formalized. I didn’t understand the game, the etiquette, or the point. Because, after all, from my perspective, it seemed to me like dating, at least in the mainstream world, was aimed primarily at two things: sex in the short term, and marriage in the long term. Neither of which I was even the least bit interested in, so why would I want to bother? Not knowing what the other person was after would have made me extremely uncomfortable, and not knowing what I was supposed to do would make it even more so. I’m sure my date, unless maybe he was someone like M, would have been quite uncomfortable with it too, because of the way I was acting. About three years ago, there was a boy who had a very obvious crush on me, and although he was generally pretty charismatic, always seemed rather weird when it came to me. Eventually, he asked me out on a date, and while I considered going out with him, I had to turn him down because it would have just been too awkward for me, and probably painfully so to him. But it wasn’t that I was uninterested in relationships in general, mind. Only that I would never date someone traditionally.

Then she told me about her dating experiences, which were mostly internet based, but included one case of what struck me as pretty much a romantic friendship, where the two of them were so close they really could have been thought to be dating. The only reason they weren’t, she thought, was because he was too straight to go for someone with a male body, which she still had at the time. It was almost like a more informal version of dating, it seemed. I wondered if dating wasn’t always as strict as it had seemed to me at first. I wondered if my lack of experience was just limiting my perspective on what it was like to go on a date. Maybe it isn’t always like how it is presented in the media, which was up until then my only source for understanding how the dating world worked. Meanwhile, she was telling me that she had been previously involved in a polyamorous relationship with a married couple. She described some of their sexual escapades, which I found interesting but confusing at the same time. When the topic turned to whether or not we would be a good fit for a date, she said, “You’re really not my type at all. So don’t worry, I’m not trying to date you.”

Well, likewise. She wasn’t my type either, or so I thought. But at the same time, I did enjoy her company a great deal, and on many levels she seemed to get me, and what she didn’t get right away, she had already proven through our few weeks of chatting over the internet that she was curious enough and open-minded enough to put a great deal of effort into discussing. Although she wasn’t sure about dating an asexual herself, at least she didn’t have a problem accepting it–she was even intrigued by it. She brought to the table a cutesy style backed by a lively intelligence, an intriguingly unconventional perspective, and collections of sex toys and socks. I wasn’t in the least bit infatuated with her and wouldn’t get to that point for quite a while, but I did like her. I suppose that’s how a lot of people must feel on first dates, now that I think of it.

Apparently, the secret to getting me to date you is to approach me strictly as a friend.

Tired of walking, we went off to find a secluded bench somewhere, hoping that our already hours-long conversation wouldn’t be disturbed anymore by passing people that we knew. We sat Indian-style on top of it, facing one another, and I remember feeling the coldness of the thick marble slab seeping through the seat of my jeans. I don’t remember if I was wearing a jacket; I don’t think I was. Since it had been a hot afternoon and I hadn’t planned on staying outside so late, either I hadn’t bothered to get one, or I had gotten one that was too thin. In reality, we were right near my dorm so I could’ve gone to get a nice warm sweater if I had wanted, but I didn’t want to bother going back there, and risk the awkwardness of seeing people we both knew who would want to invite us to come hang out with them. For some reason, even then we were bothered by people interrupting our private, two-person-only conversation. So I was cold, and my hands were especially so. I folded them together as if I were praying, rubbed them together a little bit to generate heat. She stilled my hands, and covered them with her own to keep them warm.

We kept on talking and talking until it was nearing midnight. She had an early class, so she really had to get home and get some sleep–I had already kept her up past her usual bedtime. Finally, we parted, but before we did, she said, “This is a date, isn’t it?”

I still hadn’t really thought of it as such, but it seemed to be true. “I guess so,” I said. I didn’t know, really. I thought maybe it could be.

We hugged each other then, and it wasn’t like a typical friendly greeting. I had friends that would give me long tight bear hugs, but this wasn’t one of those. It was long and lingering and ever so slightly awkward, but nice, too. I was kind of shocked about it, that our meeting could have run so counter to both of our expectations and intentions. I didn’t have any fuzzy feelings, I wasn’t sure if I would develop them, and I didn’t know what would come of it, but for the moment, I was okay with seeing where it would lead.

[Part II]

Identity Maintenance

Time passes me by lately like water does a fish—I am always in it, it is always flowing around me, but each moment is just something I live in without really thinking about it. I pay attention only to the strong currents and my eventual destination, letting the usual ebb and tide just make its lazy circles about the unconscious.

Of course, I’m still able to focus on time and its various aspects, bring it out of the background and into the forefront as I am doing now. But that kind of focus might as well be a flash of lighting. For the most part, it passes, and I make neither an effort to live in the moment nor hold fast to hope or memory. Things happen, mostly boring and not worth reporting—or so it was for a while. Unfortunately, no news does not necessarily mean good news, even though I am significantly less likely to update without the motivation of conflict. This past summer, I’ve been beset by a number of injuries and illnesses, including a brief visit to the hospital (which fortunately turned out to mean nothing except that I should take better care not to exhaust myself). Those injuries and illnesses have continued since I started school, which means that I have missed a lot of class and my ability to keep up with assignments has suffered. My relationship with my partner suffered a lot as well—partially, indeed, as a result of my being sick so often—and now we have broken up, albeit somewhat tentatively and while keeping the possibility in mind that we may be able to resolve our differences and work back up to a romantic relationship.

With all this going on, I hadn’t really been thinking about asexuality.  Over the summer, there were still plenty of moments, from time to time, when I would see my girlfriend looking at porn and, upon hearing my comments, she would groan at me and says, “You’re so asexual.” But for the most part, it went unnoticed, and barely mattered.

I have been trying to decide what is different about the part that sex played in our relationship as compared to the part that it plays in a pairing of two sexuals, but I can’t come up with much. It’s not as if it isn’t generally enjoyable, and I can’t say that it isn’t intimate. There were periods when we go without for quite a while before either one of us would crease her brow and say, “Hm. When was the last time, anyway?” That is probably the most obvious sign of my asexuality combined with her relative lack of sexual attraction to me. The thing is, our relationship actually did seem to suffer more during the dry spells than when we were doing it relatively frequently, despite my conviction that sex should not be a necessary part of a relationship.

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Polyamory and Online Dating

Whenever a discussion about how to negotiate a relationship with a sexual person comes up, asexuals tend to toss out the idea of non-monogamy as a potential solution. This is something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years, since even before I came out as asexual. I’ve had a couple of different friends who were polyamorous, and seeing a little bit of how their relationships worked, I gradually opened up to the idea of getting involved in some sort of poly arrangement myself. Continue reading