Updating the Map: Romantic Attraction and Friendship vs. Romance

This post is for the October 2015 Carnival of Aces. The theme is aromanticism and the aromantic spectrum. Cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

Until relatively recently, I never considered whether I might be on the aromantic spectrum. It was patently obvious to me that I’ve experienced whatever feeling it is that people refer to as “romantic attraction.” It didn’t really matter that I’ve only had that happen (with complete certainty) once—if it happened once, then surely it could happen again. The potential was all that mattered. Except as the years went on, and I tried very unsuccessfully to find someone (else—I’ve been polyamorously partnered for the past seven years) to date, it’s started to seem less and less like that potential feeling is accessible. So after much consideration, I’ve started identifying as greyromantic. Continue reading

On friendships, part 1: feeling I am not entitled to friendship, and I am a burden

[tw: allusions to sexual violence, domestic violence, religious abuse; descriptions of bullying and abusive friends, invalidation of asexuality. Heavy warning for abandonment trauma.]

On some level, I know other people don’t feel that way about me. That these are just my own insecurities, formed from so much abuse, so many attacks from a lack of understanding both asexuality and trauma, and how they can coexist—how my asexuality is used against me by my abusers, and my trauma is used to invalidate my asexuality.

On some level, I know there are people who really like and respect me, and really do want to be my friend. And yet. Continue reading

Sex With Friends: An Asexual Perspective

I planned to write my post for the Carnival of Aces quite a while ago, but something came up this month that made me reconsider what I had planned to write about. I’ve decided to go with the original idea, but make it more generalized than I had originally planned. My blog is receiving a lot more attention lately (by several orders of magnitude!) than it normally does, so I’m being more cautious about what I talk about here.

Today, I want to talk about having sex with friends, and how while it may not seem intuitive, it might be a choice that some asexual people do want to make, and they can come out of it just fine. But the language we use to describe relationships like that tends to exclude asexuals, so it can be an even more difficult minefield to navigate than engaging in sexual activity while in a romantic relationship.

Back when this blog post by Snowdrop Explodes* about the phrases “friends with benefits” vs. “fuck buddies” was written, I stuck a link to it in a draft and decided to come back to it later, but then forgot about it until now. In it, Snowdrop says that he prefers the term “fuck buddies” because it is more honest than the euphemistically named “benefits” that also imply that friendships don’t normally come with benefits. In his words:

So how come the only “benefits” that are worth mentioning, or making special mention of, are sexual favours? Why is the rest of it considered not to be benefits of friendship, such that the only friends who come with benefits are the ones who’ll let you fuck them? Do you think that it is too literal-minded of me to suggest that “friends with benefits” means that all other friends are “friends without benefits”?

I don’t think it’s too literal-minded at all. At the very least, it shows that everything else in a friendship is being taken for granted. I think it’s very much worth considering the implications of the language we use to describe relationships like this on a literal level, because it says something about how we value certain things and devalue others. If on a cultural level we truly valued friendships as highly as sexual relationships, the phrase “friends with benefits” wouldn’t sit right with most people, and it would fall out of use.

I disagree with Snowdrop’s use of the term “fuck buddies” as basically a synonym for FWB, since I think (and he does note that this is how he sees others using the terms) they do indeed refer to different kinds of relationships, or at least, the same relationship viewed with very different emphases. If you say you have a “fuck buddy,” then you are saying that the primary activity that you do with that person is fuck them, just like if you say you have a “drinking buddy” or a “knitting buddy,” you’re saying you primarily drink or knit with that person, respectively. The activity is the focus, not the friendship itself. If anyone describes a friend as a “_____ buddy” to me, I will assume that they do hardly anything else but [fill in the blank] together. With the phrase “friend with benefits,” however, you indicate that the friendship comes first, and the “benefits” are an added bonus, although the fact that this particular thing is the only thing that gets to be called a “benefit” still devalues friendship.

The other term that I think really needs mentioning is “casual sex,” which wikipedia informs me has no set, commonly agreed-upon meaning. The way I tend to view it is as a wide umbrella term for different kinds of sex outside the context of a romantic relationship, including both one-time encounters with strangers and, on the other side of the spectrum, habitual encounters with friends. So both fuck buddies and FWBs are engaging in a type of casual sex, and while the relationships may be similar, the two phrases have a different emotional tenor.

To demonstrate… if I were in a relationship that I considered basically a FWB-type arrangement (for lack of a better term), I would be hurt if I found out I was being described as a “fuck buddy” to others by my FWB. Because to me, that means they consider the rest of our friendship to be shallow, nearly meaningless. It strongly implies to me that should the sex ever stop, so would our friendship.

I personally can’t imagine a situation in which I would be okay with having a relationship that focuses solely on sex. I always want to be friends first and foremost, and that includes in romantic relationships. I’m not the type of person who would be comfortable having sex with strangers, since there are so many considerations that I need my sexual partners to keep in mind about me in order to have a truly positive sexual encounter.

But with a friend? Maybe that’s possible.

Continue reading

Making Sense of Things

I’ve had a draft of this epic-length post sitting around since sometime in the middle of last month, but I’ve been vacillating about whether I should finish and post it because every time I reread it, it seems too self-indulgent to me, and too far off-topic (and also, because the time I have spent not finishing it has distanced me from it enough that it almost seems not pertinent anymore, but then of course I still keep coming back to it…). I suppose it isn’t really, and my dismissive attitude towards emotions just makes it seem that way. It’s hard for me to keep a balanced perspective about these things, since I am so heavily biased towards rational thought. Still, I try not to make too many posts like this because I don’t want to start getting annoying, and end up sounding like some twelve-year-old girl who can’t help but mention her crush at every opportunity. At the same time, though, I don’t want to deny my experience, and though it might not be outright denial, to not mention M’s contribution to my life would at least be a significant oversight. Indeed, it was his influence which ultimately led to the creation of this blog. I would never have done such a thing if I hadn’t needed to distract myself from the pain of losing him, if I hadn’t had the experience of being with him in the first place. I have no penchant for dramatic overstatement (especially not as clichéd as this)—really, I am much more fond of the ridiculously understated—but his effect on me was such that I don’t know where or who I would be today if I hadn’t met him. He changed me, permanently. For the better, I think. And even if at some point my love for him fades away, my gratitude at least will ensure that I always have a soft spot for him. So I will indulge, in the interest of getting it out, off my mind, and maybe making room to heal.

I am incredibly happy and grateful that M decided to get involved with me, because he enriched my life so much. And yet, I think he made the wrong decision by getting involved with me in the first place, if he wasn’t willing to listen to what I had to say and make allowances for my so-called “sexual disability.” It is bizarre to think that something which was, for me, so uplifting (no matter how frustrating it was at the same time), could have been, for him, a grave error in judgment. Maybe he does not perceive it as such, I don’t know; but I do, and I find it somewhat difficult to accept that he of all people could take such an attitude. Continue reading

Friendship Day

My calendar informs me that today is Friendship Day, but I’ve never heard of such a thing. A quick wikipedia search tells me only this:

International Friendship Day is celebrated annually, on the first Sunday of August, in several countries. It was initially declared a holiday in honor of friends in the United States by the U.S. Congress in 1935.

What? 1935? That was 78 years ago! Why haven’t I heard of it until today? Where’s the publicity? Do we value our friends so little that even Hallmark won’t try to cash in on this? I’m astonished that we even have a holiday for it!

Why is it that Valentine’s Day is such a big deal, but Friendship Day is relegated to the realm of the forgotten? So many people are single on Valentine’s Day anyway, and so the celebration doesn’t even apply to them (unless they do the Singles Awareness thing, but that’s more counter-culture than mainstream), but I’d venture to guess that almost everyone has friends. Why don’t we celebrate them? Make them feel appreciated? Why don’t we use this day as an excuse to get together and have fun, like they do in Argentina?

It saddens me that we are so focused on romance to the exclusion of other kinds of relationships, that so many people maintain their friendships only until they get married. The biggest problem with society today, in my opinion, is that intimacy is relegated strictly to sexual relationships. Only one type of relationship is validated, and the rest are seen as unimportant.

Even if nothing else ever comes of it, I hope that asexuals, as people who blur the line between friendship and romance (or, in the case of the aromantics, who don’t seek romance at all), will help to challenge these values and create a more open society with regard to the forging of human connections.

Maybe one day this holiday will be remembered and given the attention it deserves.