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

Guest Post: Traveling Together, You May Find What You Seek Close to Home

The following is a guest post for the Carnival of Aces by Olivier, who has been a very insightful and eloquent poster at AVEN for the past five years. I personally have found his and his wife’s story quite inspiring, as I find my own attitude/tendencies to be somewhat similar to his wife’s, and had I not discovered asexuality so early in life, I suspect my own story would might have ended up sounding a lot like theirs. Here is how he describes himself:

I’m a heterosexual in a 22-year relationship with an asexual. Like many longer term sexual/asexual relationships, my wife and I had not heard of asexuality until relatively recently (2007), and for many years struggled with the failures of other theories, such as sex-aversion or libido-mismatch, to adequately describe the dynamics of our relationship. I’m incredibly indebted to AVEN for helping us put a name to something that we’d known about – lived – for decades, but had always misunderstood by looking at it through weird normative lenses instead of just seeing it for what it is.

The post is pretty much as he sent it in, but I chose the title.

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So. Sexual exploration. I’d been banging around, looking for an analogy (‘cos I like analogies!) when the one I wanted sort of slapped me in the face: exploration! Or in a less 19th-century-pith-helmet way, finding somewhere nice to go on holidays together.

First, a bit of personal background. I’ve always got the impression in asexual spaces that sexual exploration is seen as something natural for sexuals to do lots of, and very much an optional thing for asexuals. I don’t necessarily disagree, but that’s not really been my personal experience. I have pretty vanilla tastes, and so in some senses I’m pretty easy to please sexually – not much exploration required. Just pack me off to the nearest beach, or city full of theatres and museums, or rainforest with waterfalls, and I’m happy. My wife on the other hand, knows that these sorts of things are generally regarded as good holiday experiences, but they do nothing much for her. Some people might decide that they’re basically a homebody and leave it at that. But not my wife, her natural reaction is to go exploring.

And so it was for us at the start. We’d do sexual stuff that I found really quite fabulous, and that my wife was putting a lot of effort into. As people who’d never heard of asexuality, and who saw both ourselves and each other as heterosexual, this seemed to me to be a perfectly normal way to approach sex and relationships. But then it would stop. And when it started again it would be something different, approached with gusto. Until it stopped. In hindsight it’s easy to see this for what it was – an asexual who thought she was sexual trying to find the thing that would do it for her. At the time however, it just seemed like the girl I was crazy about was just way more sexually adventurous than I was. Now, that’s not a bad thing, at all, but it is really, really, really, the wrong expectation to take into a long-term sexual/asexual relationship. Drama and confusion, of course, ensued.

While I was wondering what was wrong with that nice beach town with cool places to hang out, my wife would be planning a few weeks in Afghanistan to see if an element of danger made travel more fun, or a month in a place where nobody spoke a word of English, just for a challenge. And some of these places I enjoyed, and others not so much, but being with her certainly broadened my horizons. Problem was, and is, that even places that ticked all the boxes for her in theory, she didn’t much enjoy in practice. For all that drive to explore, there turned out not to be anywhere she particularly enjoyed going. And while she liked some of them well enough once she was there, she still thought that none of them were worth what you had to do to get there – airports and expense and lots of boring standing in queues.

So what’s a guy to do? My first tactic was to deal with all that boring stuff for her. Spend weeks planning. Get all the details sorted. Have things she liked – good books, tasty food – on hand for every step of the way to make all the transit fun. But when you’ve planned the perfect holiday in your head, there’s only one possible outcome: disappointment. And so with our sex life, until we finally admitted what we knew all along – all that exploration and adventure is basically not going to work for us.

So what to do?

Firstly, take a deep breath and get some perspective. For all the fact that sex is not what either of us hoped or planned, we’re ridiculously well matched and happy in every other department. In travel terms, we may not to get to travel much, but we’ve made sure our home is a great place to be, too.

Secondly, our compromise is to do stuff sexually that’s quick and not very adventurous, but is still something. Ironically, this is what works best for my adventurous wife, and leaves less adventurous me wanting more. Not at all what we would have predicted, but it works well enough for us. So it’s like taking a short drive to a beach we both like instead of spending a week in a resort, which would be torture if one of us didn’t want to be there.

And, you know, that’s not the worst, or most uncomfortable way to live. Sometimes I still get the travel bug, and sometimes even a drive to the beach is too much for my wife, but on the whole, it works, and it works well – simply because it’s shaped by the sort of people we both are. Sometimes all that exploring just makes you want to stay close to home.

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.
Continue reading

Boquet Remix

Since we’ve been talking about marriage here lately, I thought it would be nice to make a post about my updated views on marriage. For reference, here is my original post from before I met C.

Let’s start at the beginning: I’ve realized that although I made an update mentioning my break-up with C in October, I never made any kind of post—or informed my friends—that we’ve since gotten back together. I suppose I should have done that, but at the time it was quite difficult to distinguish whether we were or wanted to consider ourselves to be friends or dating or what. We were in that weird blurry zone without labels again, basically. So to this day, I still have friends who don’t know that we’re back together, and for that matter, there are still people who never knew we broke up at all… and some people, of course, who never knew we were together in the first place!

I don’t really know why it doesn’t occur to me to tell people these things, honestly. I mean, I would tell them if they asked. But they don’t exactly invite me to hang out with them very often anymore. For some reason, if I’m not standing right in front of them or living in the same dormitory, they just don’t seem to think about me too much. And so we end up going months without talking. I suppose it is sad that I go so long without talking to every single one of my friends, but I’m not sure how to change it. I’m too timid to contact them most of the time. I guess I feel like too much of a bother and a burden if I contact them, but if they contact me it must mean they really want to hang out with me. But this is getting off-topic.

So anyway, C broke up with me basically because our living situation wasn’t working out, and she felt like she needed more space. She was freaking out thinking that there wasn’t any solution, and so she thought that we should just break up. But she still wanted to be friends and made a very big effort to stay in my life. And she has sex with her friends, and she is romantic with her friends. So there weren’t many clear boundaries. When she moved out, she began to recover and feel much more positively towards me again. After a while we were behaving exactly the same way that we would when we first got into a romantic relationship with one another again, except better because we had cleared a lot of what wasn’t working between us. So we agreed to just get back together in labels, as well.

What’s interesting is that when we first got back together, we ended up having sex a lot. This continued for like a month and a half or so, after which it dwindled and dropped down to zero for about a month. During which point we were still feeling very close and intimate, and spending lots of time together, but we were spending that time cuddling, talking, and watching movies and T.V. shows together. Lots of nonsexual intimacy.

Now we’re still not living together, and the time that we are able to spend together has been severely curtailed due to school and work. But we are back to planning what we are going to do for the future. Her plan is to eventually move to Canada because of how much better it is for trans rights there. My plans are much less solid, but I would like to live there with her. It makes sense, then, for us to get married because it would make immigration much easier. And since we are perceived as lesbians, I have no political objection to it. It’s allowed in Canada so our being married wouldn’t be a weird tip-off about her birth sex there. I’m also not worried about the possibility of divorce, because we plan to keep that possibility in mind and keep separate bank accounts. I think we both have a pretty healthy attitude about it.

It’s weird to think of myself as being engaged, although I guess I kind of am? We don’t have a date in mind or anything, we’re just sort of planning to do it eventually. Do people start calling themselves engaged when they have a date in mind, or just when they decide to eventually get married? I don’t see any reason to call her my fiance. I don’t see any reason for us to have a ceremony. (Especially not one that we have spent a lot of money on!) Besides, neither one of us is Christian, so what kind of ceremony would we even have? I do want a ring, but that is mainly to get rid of the annoyance of people hitting on me. I don’t care if she wears one. I don’t see the point of having a wedding. The important part is what comes after that. The important part is the day in, day out ebb & flow of life and relating to one another. I don’t see this as a personal accomplishment, because I was never planning on getting married in the first place, and I don’t think being married is necessarily any better or more fulfilling than not being married. For us, it just makes sense because it is much more practical to do it this way. It’s nothing to be congratulated about. I wish that people would realize that marriage (or the length of a marriage) is not a measure of the success of a relationship or the happiness of the individuals involved, and that there are so many unmarried and single people out there who are way more happy than they would be if they were married, and lots of people out there who have stayed in unhappy marriages/relationships because they think it is a measure of their success as a person.

The Primary Function of Marriage?

This is sort of like a part two to my previous post, but it is actually more like a part three or four, or even five (who knows? I’ve lost count) in an ongoing discussion about asexuality and rape culture. Originally I proposed the idea that sexual coercion and marital rape might be a fundamental human rights issue for asexual discourse to focus on in a comment directed towards the A Life podcast team, who seemed to misunderstand my point and were quite dismissive of the idea. I believe Henrik said something like “Well if you’re going to get raped, then don’t get married.” (I’m not going to go through the podcast to find the actual quote, but if you want to do it, you can find it here. Keep in mind I am also not up-to-date on the more recent podcasts, including the one about asexuality and marriage.) I was kinda pissed off that he would say something like that, because it ignores the reality of the situation that many asexuals are in, and implies a callous attitude towards my own mother’s situation (and mine by proxy). (Why should she have been expected to predict that my father would spiral into alcoholic depression and choose to take it out on the whole family? How could she have known? I think this is called “blaming the victim.”) I’m pointing Henrik’s comment out because it provides context for what I am about to say, and you will see the reason why in a moment.

I posted a clarification here, which recently Britni the Vagina Wig linked to and commented on here. Her post refueled the discussion, and in one of the comments, ignorantarmies said:

For one, this is not so because “marriage is for procreation”. We have long since decoupled sexuality from procreation, thanks to reliable contraceptives. Some Christian groups might promote this, but the reality is different. Relationships involve sex, because one of their functions is to produce spaces where we can have legitimate sex. There are other matters of bonding, belonging, emotional and economic connections, but almost all of those are related to sex in some way. And, I would argue, its good, even necessary to have some kind of institution that does this. Most people want sex and they need some way to satisfy this desire in a socially acceptable way, that is without suffering social sanctions. They do this be having an institution (or several) in place that produces legitimate space for sex. This institution in modern, western society is called the (romantic) relationship. It’s vital for its functioning, that it implies sex (at some point, in some way, details are open to debate).

Yes, social institutions do have coercive force. But this is just a matter of being social beings. Requirements of social spaces like reducing of complexity, producing reliability and stability and encouraging cooperation cannot be had unless we somehow make each other conform to some regular forms of behavior. And to some degree, this is always coercive.
This was a central point in my article on seduction.

The easy answer would be to say that if you don’t want sex, don’t have romantic relationships. If you want other things that romantic relationships produce, find someone who will do that with you without wanting sex. If you do want to participate in a full blown romantic relationship, find a way to communicate with your partner, and find a partner with whom you can communicate your problems on the matter, maybe you will find a solution, maybe you won’t.
Queer people (in the widest sense) have solved the problem of heterosexual monogamous vanilla relationships being unfit for their desires by creating queer interaction spaces where they have set up their own institutions regarding sex. A good solution if there ever was one. I’m not sure if there are enough asexual people for this to be workable, but it makes sense to me at least.

So, I think that attacking that the institution of romantic relationships involves sex is not a good move. Alternative institutions would be better. But any institution requires a semi-stable group of regularly interacting people in order to bring it forth. Then, the requirements of sociality as well as the desires of the individuals can be satisfied.

I posted a response here, and then ignorantarmies posted a reply here. To which I posted the following comment:

I see where you are coming from and I understand that people have different reasons for getting into romantic relationships/marriages. I didn’t mean to imply that people DON’T get into them as a way to have legitimate sex. I also know that people get into romantic relationships without being in love with their partners, in many cases. Usually, I believe this is a temporary thing; either people intend to get into such relationships for sex, or to solve the problem of loneliness. Or, they may see the person as being compatible and give it a try even though they’re not crazy about the person, to see if love grows over time (this I have done myself, with the effect that I did end up falling for the person). Some may just settle.

Of course people have different reasons for getting into romantic relationships: that was actually my point. I probably should have drawn my it out, made the effort to articulate it to a more definite conclusion, instead of leaving it mostly unstated. Sorry for the confusion.

My issue with your original comment was that it seemed far too dismissive of other reasons that people may get into relationships, and seemed to imply support for the idea that upon getting married, a person is automatically assumed to be giving consent to sex with their spouse under every circumstance (i.e. that there is or should be no such thing as marital rape).

People get married for lots and lots of reasons. The fact of it is, not all married couples have sex or ever intend to have sex. Marriage legitimizes a relationship in the eyes of society, and gives a number of legal benefits. That’s why people fight so hard for gay marriage. And that’s why some asexual couples also get married.

I’ve been in a romantic relationship with a fellow asexual before, and it kinda sucks, because the vast majority of people are not willing to acknowledge it as a “real relationship” just because there is no sex involved. My sister was the worst about it; she would belittle me for it constantly, saying that I was too stupid to realize that what my ex and I had was “just friendship.” Few people would just accept it and be happy for me. I almost always had to try to prove that it’s possible first.

Now, you say that marriage “does not work” for asexuals, but are you aware that asexuals DO get married and that it CAN work for them? Getting married would FORCE society to recognize that there really IS a strong bond between two asexuals beyond “just friendship” (although I would contend that friendship is and should be a huge part of a romantic relationship, there is also usually a different kind of feeling to it), at least on some level.

So should asexuals not get married then, just because ONE of marriage’s functions is to provide a space for “legitimate” sex (in the eyes of Christians)? Should asexual couples just avoid that social institution altogether even though it would certainly be beneficial both legally and socially? That seemed to be what your comment was implying. It also seemed to lack awareness of the actual situation that many asexuals are in, with regard to marriage.

My discomfort was never with the idea that some people get into relationships just so they can have legitimate sex, although of course that doesn’t appeal to me. It’s deeper than that. It was because the way you phrased your comment reduced my experience of romance to something that apparently does not count as a “real” romantic relationship. It seemed to imply support for a system that would discount my experiences and enforce my subjugation, should I ever get into a situation where I might be raped by the person I had married. Although this is not likely to happen to me, because I have an unfortunately deep understanding of domestic violence and how to avoid it, as well as a good understanding of my sexual orientation and how to deal with sex in a positive way, there are lots of asexuals out there who did not realize they were asexual until AFTER they had gotten married, because they were waiting until after marriage to deal with sex. They just operated under the assumption that they were heterosexual and would enjoy sex when they had it, but then found out that was not the case. Should they be legally obligated to provide sex for their spouse, in the event that they discover that it is detrimental to their well-being? Should their pain be ignored? Should they be silenced just because one of the functions of marriage is to provide a space for legitimate sex?

I don’t think we should see marriage as primarily a way to provide a space for legitimate sex precisely for that reason. That is one function, sure. But to reduce it to that one single function, when there are plenty of others, is very dangerous, especially if it is used to support laws that discount the possibility of marital rape. I don’t know if that is what you meant to say in your comment or not, but that is what it seemed to imply. I think we ought to acknowledge ALL the reasons why people get married, and make laws based on every possibility, rather than reducing it to one “primary” function. Because all that really does is serve to enforce sexual-normativity, and silence the minority of people who DON’T want to have sexual marriages.

Another thing I want to point out is that what is culturally considered the “primary” reason for marriage changes as culture does, and enforces dominant cultural attitudes. At one time the “main functions” of marriages WERE considered to be procreation and economic union. Now they are not, but those are still functions of marriage, and for some people they are even the PRIMARY function. I know a couple who have been together for years without getting married, but plan to do so when they get pregnant. Lots and lots of people get together just so their kids will be legitimate, and lots and lots of people stay together just for the kids. It’s not accurate to say that the primary function of their marriages is to provide a space for legitimate expression of sexuality.

That is why I do not think your position is justified.

I realized after I posted that comment that I mainly refer to marriages throughout, but the original comment actually said that asexuals should stay out of romantic relationships, not just “don’t get married.” Which is even more offensive, because it does imply that asexual romances don’t count as romances, just like my sister used to explicitly tell me over and over and over again. There’s not really a serious adjective yet to describe what kind of comment this is (“asexophobic” sounds pretty silly), but it is definitely a product of sexual privilege and seeks to enforce sexual-normativity. Asexual romance is being erased from possibility, at least in the minds of the majority. That has got to change.

Asexuals really don’t face much discrimination, if by that you mean outright hostility (although I have heard there has already been a case of a hate crime committed against a woman specifically because she is asexual). But people Other the hell out of us, and refuse to acknowledge our existence even when they have been made aware that such a thing exists. Why should we be barred from having “romantic” relationships (in quotes because I think that what’s really being referred to is just a synonym for sexual relationships) or from having our relationships called romantic and honored as such even though they would fit that description perfectly, just because we aren’t having sex? There’s a word for that, you know: it’s called marginalization.

I don’t want to be too harsh, now. This person probably did not realize why the comment was so offensive, and did not mean for it to be. But it comes from a place of privilege and that should be pointed out. I point it out to the asexual community instead of just leaving it as a comment because of attitudes like Henrik’s which parallel this to some extent (and I think are also indicative of another kind of privilege: that of not being affected by domestic violence). It is certainly an option to create a new kind of alternative relationship space for asexuals to exist in, and I absolutely applaud efforts to do that. (David Jay is doing a great job of exploring these options over at Love From the Asexual Underground, for anyone interested.) But not all asexuals want to do that. Some of us want to get married, and some of us already are married before we know that asexuality actually exists. Creating a new relationship style is fine, but creating a whole new social institution with the same legal and social benefits of marriage would be extremely difficult or (more likely) completely impossible, and would also fail to address the issues of those who are already married and stuck in a painful situation. Therefore, instead of dismissing the possibility of a violent marriage because it is “not relevant” or “does not apply” to most of us who have already connected to the asexual community, I firmly believe we ought to fight to make marriage a friendlier space for our fellow asexuals (and everyone else) to inhabit.

I’m going to finish this post off with a link: via Womanist Musings, here is a call for submissions for an anthology of personal essays dealing with queerness and sexual violence. If you have had any kind of experience with sexual violence and asexuality, I would urge you to submit something for this. I think it is very important that we bring these issues to light!

Romantic Initiatives, Part II

[Part I]

We were not lovers.

I didn’t know what we were or what we would become. We were in fuzzy territory, the topography a natural blend, unmarked by conceptual boundaries. There were boundaries, yes, but only the kind of boundaries that a river makes as it cuts through stone. There was no sign that said “KEEP OFF” and no assumption that we would be following societal customs about grass. There were no intellectually imposed markings of any kind, really. It was more organic than a hippie convention at the local farmer’s market.

We did not talk again until a day had passed. I was, quite frankly, distracted by my vibrant social life. You see, after spending the summer heartsick and pining, I had gotten back into the swing of things. No longer isolated from scholastic pursuits, I found myself surrounded by people. There were fickle people, people who started to shun me because they happened to catch me in the company of those with whom they were no longer friends. There were people who were with me for just half a season, and only then because of my roommate, with whom I got along quite well. But there were also a few that I am still friends with today. The night after I went on an accidental “date” with C, one of those friends was going through a personal crisis, and so I invited him out bowling with me, my roommate, and a very lively group of foreign exchange students she referred to as the “Chinese Mafia.”

The next day, when I invited C to come out to “the fair” with us (because that’s what my friends told me that it was, but as it turns out it was just a lame corn maze), I thought it might be awkward because of what was going on between my friend and one of his friends who would be there also. I wasn’t really thinking about C that much, aside from the thought that she might provide a convenient excuse to duck out of the way if the feathers started flying. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I thought it would be nice to see her and all, but I worried that perhaps she was a little more eager to meet again than I was. As ever, I was being cautious.

When she showed up around 2 p.m., my immediate impression was of how nervous and awkward she looked–she was mid-transition but had not gone full time yet, and her male clothing did not suit her face. She does have a girlish face, all big pouty lips and pretty green eyes–eyes which were covered up by glasses with those lenses that change into sunglasses when exposed to harsh light, except that they seemed to be broken, remaining permanently a translucent light brown. Her body, too, was covered up. But there was no mistaking her femininity; it pervaded every shy line of her body–the way she held her arms, the way her lips turned up in a cute grin at the sight of me. “What? No hug?” she pouted, a little put off by the way I had, in my continued rush to get ready, just ushered her in. So I hugged her then, and it was not the same as the one from the other night–shorter, more stilted–because now I was much more nervous about it. But it was still nice.

There were a bunch of people from the QSA going, and so we met up with a bunch of them at the maze, and went through it all together. Truth be told, we trailed after them. Neither one of us was particularly interested in navigating the maze, so we held back and walked next to each other, talking about various things. Tentatively, she bumped her hand against mine–a sign that she wanted me to take it. I was not so sure I wanted it to go in this direction–at least not so soon!–but I decided to just go with it to see where it would lead. We walked and walked, hand in sweaty hand, until the others, still ahead of us, found our way out.

It was clear, at this point, that she was beginning to become somewhat infatuated with me. How much so, I did not know. I felt rather distanced from her at the time, and uncomfortable showing affection like that in public. The others were giving us looks of surprise every now and then, and though I do not remember whether they said anything in front of us then or only later on, when I was explaining how we met, one of them said, “Wow, look at those two! They are totally canoodling!”

Once we were done at the maze, we made our way back to the dorms with a number of tiny pumpkins that they had given away there. While C and I had been walking around on our own, it seems that tension had been building between three of my friends over some issue or another, I can’t remember anymore. We were hanging out, waiting to see if they wanted to go out to dinner with us or not. At some point, C sat down on a comfy zebra-striped chair that R had salvaged from the newly redecorated art building, and then pulled me onto her lap. I was surprised that she would go that far after only the second time that we had met in person, and while I was a little uncomfortable with it, I wasn’t uncomfortable enough to say anything about it. After I got used to it, it was kind of nice.

Then T and W showed up, irritable at each other and both angry at R. At some point, C and I relocated to my bed, curled up next to each other and held hands, watching the three of them duke it out. “You know, I felt bad for them,” C said of it later, “But at the moment, I was really too happy to care.” Ultimately, T and W stalked off to go do something else, leaving R in tears at my dorm. So the three of us went out to eat together, to cheer her up. This involved a lot of impractically one-handed eating, since C sat next to me and had my hand under the table, and refused to let go for as long as she could help it.

I don’t remember doing anything after that, so we must have each gone home. I returned to my relative solitude wondering what I might have gotten myself into, and whether it would be something that would be good for me to pursue. It bothered me a little that C seemed to be pouring herself into our potential relationship so fast, while I was still processing what had gone on in my previous not-relationship. I do tend to let significant relationships (in a broad sense, including friendships) linger on my mind far longer, perhaps, than other people do–long after the feeling is gone, I still keep trying to work out a system of interaction that might have worked out better than what had actually happened. At that point, I was not sure I was ready to get into a new relationship like that yet. I had not expected to find myself faced with that possibility so soon, nor for C to enter my intimate space so quickly. I understood that she was very affectionate with her friends, as she had warned me about it a little, but still, it took me by surprise. I would like to say it took me pleasantly by surprise, but at the time, I really was fairly neutral. It wasn’t something I had expected, and I wasn’t sure it was where I wanted to go, but it wasn’t so bad either. For a while, I just couldn’t make up my mind.

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.

Continue reading

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!

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