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]

Dating Site Review: OKCupid

As we all know, asexuals are scarce. It’s hard to meet other asexuals in real life. Even if by chance we do meet up with another one, it’s not like there’s any way to pick an asexual out of a crowd just by their appearance, and the topic of asexuality may not be likely to come up. Or the person might not yet have realized that they are asexual (this happened to me with one of my closest friends–consider this a shout out!). There are a lot of barriers to overcome.

Most of the asexual or near-asexual people I know in real life I initially met online. Most of the time it’s just been by chance, meeting them through other interests and then discovering that we’re both asexual, but a few times, I have met asexual people specifically through online dating sites. I know that often, we romantic asexuals do end up foraying into the (potentially scary) world of online dating, so I thought I might help those who are considering it by putting up some reviews of the dating sites I’ve tried.

First up: OKCupid.

This is where I met my “wife,” so obviously, I’ve had some success with it. To some extent, I realize I was extremely lucky, but at the same time, this site ranks up there with the best dating sites of all time. I am really hard-pressed to think of any that are anywhere near as successful, and although I would attribute that to my own ignorance, I’ve asked a few other people too, and they can’t come up with anything, either.

ADVANTAGE NUMBER ONE: It’s free. Not that I would even bother with any sites that aren’t free, so I guess that’s not saying much.

DISADVANTAGE NUMBER ONE: The options in the drop-down box for orientation (and gender too, if that’s an issue) are limited. You must choose straight, gay, or bisexual. That’s it. Obviously, this seems to be very unfriendly to asexuals, but honestly, using the current system, I can’t imagine how allowing “asexual” as an option would work. You have to realize that this is being used as an indicator of gender preference, not as an indicator of sexuality. The sexuality is simply assumed, because everyone is assumed to have a sexuality, and of course that’s stupid, but that’s not really what this is about. In order to allow people to find your profile, you have to indicate whether you’re interested in men, women, or both. So in order to get the system to work, you have to be willing to “lie” a little. I personally think that instead of using a drop-down menu as they do now, they ought to just have little ticky boxes for men or women. That way it would be easier to add in an option for asexuals, and they could also configure it so that we would be able to search for each other.

ADVANTAGE NUMBER TWO: But all is not lost! There are other ways that you can indicate that you are asexual. Obviously, you can write about it in your profile (which I’d recommend if you’re not worried about outing yourself to people you know in real life–otherwise you can just tell people using the messaging system). The second way you can do it is by answering user-created match questions. If you search for “asexual,” you will see a list of questions (and quizzes) that are about asexuality, and if you answer those and make the questions mandatory, then anyone trying to message you will have to answer those questions before being allowed to do so, and it will significantly impact your match percentage with that person. If you do a WTF report with that person, you can see exactly what they answered and decide whether you want to message the person or not. So, although you can’t choose “asexual” from a drop-down box, you still have a few different ways to communicate to potential matches that you’re asexual (because really, who else would have “would you be willing to date an asexual person? (yes)” as a mandatory question?), plus if the questions that already exist about asexuality (admittedly, there are not that many yet) aren’t satisfactory, you can always add your own.

DISADVANTAGE NUMBER TWO: It takes time. These filters aren’t a sure thing. You may still be inundated with messages from jerks who don’t even bother to read your profile, or send you stupid messages about asexuality not being real (though that has never happened to me, personally; I’ve found most everyone who talked to me was very nice about asexuality, and wanted to learn more even if they weren’t interested in dating an asexual person), to the point where you may start to feel discouraged. This site was not created with asexuals in mind, so you will probably run into a lot of people who aren’t interested in an asexual person before you will run into someone who is. However, in a way, this is an advantage in itself, because you may be able to find people who would not have specifically searched for an asexual themselves (maybe because they had never heard of the idea, or never really considered it), but who are willing to date one anyway. But with a little time and a little luck, you may well be able to find someone who is compatible with you.

ADVANTAGE NUMBER THREE: This is a very well-known site with a LOT of people to choose from. Sites that are specifically targeted to asexuals and/or celibate people generally have the disadvantage of being very obscure. OKCupid, on the other hand, has a target audience broad enough to attract a decent amount of users, has been around for long enough that most people who use the internet on a regular basis have probably encountered it, if not because they have any interest in online dating, then because of their great selection of time-wasting quizzes. I had an OKC account long before I actually started using my profile for dating purposes, because I found the quizzes to be an excellent way to waste inordinate amounts of time on the internet. I think the quizzes are a big reason why OKC has become such a success, since they managed to find a way to advertise to so many idle bloggers wanting to put some neat quiz results on their journals. So the chances are relatively high, compared to other sites, that you will be able to find compatible people in your area (I have heard, however, that OKC is quite US-centric, though since I am from the US, I can’t really judge that for myself).

MINOR QUIBBLES: The IM feature sucks (but not enough that it’s unusable). There are also a few annoying things about searching for matches, like that my highest match (my gf) doesn’t always show up when I search for “highest match” in every range.

ADVANTAGE NUMBER FOUR: User-created content. I know I already mentioned this, but I think it’s just that important to mention again. This means that you can create your own quizzes and match questions, so there is an inbuilt flexibility to the system that can allow for anything the creators (and the rest of the user database) overlooked. This is good news for little-known sexual orientations and anyone who practices alternative relationship styles. And because the site is so well-known, we can get some free awareness-spreading done just by trying to score ourselves a date. Just think of the possibilities!

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

If you’re ONLY looking to date a fellow asexual, you may not like OKC. But if you’re going to go for the chance that you might find someone who’s not ase but willing to date one (and by “date,” I mean have any kind of romantic or blurry-lines relationship), then by all means, go with this one. It has a ton of advantages over other dating sites, and is flexible enough to accomodate all manner of people. With time, it will probably grow more and more asexual-friendly, too. Good luck!

Apparently, the internet works.

For those of you who have been wondering where I’ve disappeared to these past few weeks, I’ve recently gotten a girlfriend, and she has been regularly kidnapping me. Met her on OKcupid, and by coincidence we turned out to have already met in person, but not directly spoken to one another, at our local QSA. We sort of ended up going on a date by accident, as our originally planned “first” friendly meet-up ended up lasting five or six hours longer than expected. I’m quite pleasantly surprised at this recent turn of events; I hadn’t expected to find someone so soon after M, especially not around where I live.

She has been ridiculously supportive about asexuality, too. She not only asks questions, but also spends a lot of time thinking about it by herself, trying to come up with definitions of sexual vs. non-sexual attraction. She listens to me and tries to understand, and being a fellow queer person (currently without much of a sex drive) it comes quite a bit more naturally to her.

I’ve been trying to balance my time with her against school, my friends, and the internet. Since my priorities are in that order, and we’re in the middle of midterms, well. My updates to this blog have obviously become less frequent. I’m going to try to post more often, but I surely won’t be able to keep up at the same pace that I did previously. I will also eventually get around to replying to comments.

Anyway, this past Sunday was declared Asexuality Visibility and Education Day. I don’t spend much time on AVEN anymore, so I wasn’t aware of that until three or four days prior, but somehow I managed to arrange a meet-up with the two other asexual (or close to asexual) girls I know of in this area, whom I met over the internet (one on asexualitic, the other on LJ). We went to a little international cafe, and ended up talking for four hours. Which is certainly unexpected, since all three of us are shy and introverted. It was a great success! I guess meeting people over the internet really does work.

News

Well… I was out visiting family last week (so never doing that again, at least not that side of the family), so these past several days since I got back have been spent catching up on things, working on a sewing project, and trying to restore my reserves of sanity. Unfortunately, I haven’t really got back into the headspace that I need to write yet; I have three drafts that I’ve started, and then found myself unable to continue, and then started on a different one, repeat ad nauseum. So instead of doing that I thought I might as well just leave a quick note here on the various recent happenings that are relevant here.

New Zealand Wins Award For Most Asex-Friendly Country of 2008
Okay, there is no such award, but there should be! Probably the biggest news for the asexual community lately is the first ever explicitly asexual TV character. I’m sure almost all of you have heard about it by now, but for the sake of those few of you who don’t read Ily’s blog, I’ll post it here, too. The character’s name is Gerald Tippet, of New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street. I’ve actually known about this for a while, since one of my Kiwi friends is a long-time fan of the show, but what I didn’t know is that the asexuality storyline is now available to watch on YouTube, courtesy of user sootmouthnz, who gains >9000 Ace Points and levels up.

And… that was the good news. Here’s the bad:

U.S. Court Rules Sexual Relations Counts as “Major Life Activity,” Expands Definition of Disability
The story broke here, and Venus of Willendork brought it to our attention here. I don’t have much to say about it other than what I said in the comments, but really, I just didn’t expect M’s ridiculous conclusion to become reality. It hasn’t gotten that far yet, since this is about not being able to have sex rather than not wanting to have sex, but this gives us reason to be concerned. The definition of sexuality used is broad (read: vague) enough that with this precedent in place, it would be easy enough for some sue-happy entitlement whore to come along and say that their “inability to experience sexual attraction” constitutes a sexual disability (nevermind the inaccuracy, we can’t expect the courts to know about that). If that happens, I think I’ll move to New Zealand!

But although on a larger scale we continue to be ignored and invalidated (here in the U.S. at least), on a smaller scale I’ve met some friendly people lately. Some of you may remember my little experiment with online dating. Well, it hasn’t turned up any real prospects yet, but I’ve met a couple of asex-friendly people and had some interesting conversations. It seems awareness has grown, and OKcupid is a friendlier place than it was when swankivy joined, so hey, we are making progress!

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