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
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:
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:
Apr. 25, 2010 – 12:42am
Hey how are you? How many times a day you like sex?
Or how about this one?
Nov. 15, 2010 – 11:38am
Hi… I am Marc… [Name of City we live in]… Interested?
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:
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
And perhaps the most pointless message of them all:
Aug. 22, 2010 – 3:25pm
I haven’t heard of any of those bands. Maybe I should check them out.
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.
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.
DrkChief on Formspring asks:
I hope im not out of bounds but im in a relationship and we both think that im asexual and I am at a loss as of what to do and just wonder if you know anything that could help?
Hi again, okay well we are monogamous, and as of now she’s responded positively but would I guess rather it not be this way if it didn’t have to be and with sexual activities we have been dating for just over a year and it’s been the first relationship where either of us has done anything sexual with a person in a relationship and so Neither of us knew what to expect I guess but as we started trying to do more (I’m at college and she just finished her senior year so finding alone time was hard) it was like she wanted the sexual attentions more then I did and at first I didn’t know but she thought I just didn’t find her attractive and so then I started doing stuff just to try and make up for that and there were times where I think I genuinely wanted to do it but I’m the type of person who has always done what other people wanted or even didn’t want me to do to make them happy and I think I might just enjoy being able to experience some of these thing because of what I’ve been told that it’s supposed to be the the best thing ever (I have two older brothers who have been preaching this to me). One of the big things is I’ve never started any of the sexual things we have done it’s always been her and I have been anxious/scared to be alone with her in case she wants to do something and I’m not up to it or I’ll be able to please her but her not me and she takes it as being her fault. Sorry for rambling but just another piece of information is that about two years ago I was trying to find out if I was gay or bi or really anything and this was before I knew her but that was because I originally felt that the lack of sexual attraction I felt was equally low for both female and male I wanted to know If I was that, and about a year after I has started thinking about this I had my gay brother (drunk) holding down and telling me basically that I should not be gay (this was around when I told her for the first time that I had thought I was bi or gay and at that time (a bad choice) I had gotten myself to believe that I had figured out that I was straight) and this just made me think about it more and more. And sorry it is so long I’m just glad for any advice at all.
To summarize briefly, the basic situation as I understand it is this: you’re in the process of figuring yourself out, while in a monogamous relationship, and you and your girlfriend have both started to think that you’re asexual. Now, you don’t know what to do.
Well, first of all, I have to ask: you’re at a loss as of what to do about what, exactly? Presumably, this has to do with the sexual parts of your relationship. But what about it? I want you to really ask yourself what your goals are here, and be specific about it. Some people, upon realizing they are asexual, start to think that maybe they don’t want to be in a relationship at all, or only want to be in a relationship with either another asexual, or someone who is comfortable forgoing sex. From what I can glean, you seem to be looking for a way to maintain your current relationship while staying true to yourself. But what exactly does that mean? Does it mean not having sex at all? Having sex at a certain frequency, or in a certain way? It’s certainly possible for sexual/asexual couplings to work out well, though it depends on a number of factors. I’ll talk a little bit more about that in a moment.
But first of all, since you are just recently coming to identify as asexual, I want to talk about that. When I first realized I was asexual, having gone through a similar phase as you where I thought I was bisexual (and later pansexual), it was a comforting realization. It was like, “Oh, wow, this is a real thing. I’m not the only one.” I never really thought anything was wrong with me, so it wasn’t really anything like feeling that “I’m not broken after all!” like some asexuals describe. Other people describe their realization that they’re asexual as being to some degree upsetting, either because it’s a huge change in their world view or because they feel like nobody would ever want to date an asexual, and so on. So how do you feel about it?
This can’t just be about placating your girlfriend. Whatever solution you decide on, make sure it is what you genuinely want. It worries me that you say, “there were times where I think I genuinely wanted to do it but…” If you’re having sex you don’t want, that is not okay. It’s not your duty to have sex with your girlfriend. It should be a choice that you make, not because you feel you have to or because you’re pressured into it, but because you want to make it. There are plenty of reasons why you might want to do it that don’t have to do with sexual attraction. But here’s the thing: if you’re only trying to maintain the relationship, if you’re only trying to somehow “make up” for your lack of sexual attraction to your partner by having sex, you’re not going to fool her. It’s hard to feign interest, much less to feign interest for an extended period of time. If you don’t actually want to have sex at all, that will become obvious over time, and it will leave both of you unsatisfied. It could erode the relationship to the point that it would be much worse than where just not having sex would leave you. Even if she decides to break up with you because you don’t want to have sex, isn’t it better that to just have that out in the open and consider it now, rather than drawing it out doing something you don’t want to do, leaving you both unsatisfied and resentful?
Essentially, this is a compatibility issue. Nobody is ever perfectly compatible, and if they think they are, they’re deluding themselves. What the two of you need to determine is how great the incompatibility is, and whether you are compatible enough in other areas to make up for it. Where are your limits, with regard to sexual activities? Keep in mind that intercourse is not the only option when it comes to sex; some women, for example, are very happy to just have their nipples played with, and can orgasm easily that way. If you’re uncomfortable with having intercourse but you’re okay with doing that, and she likes it, that can be a way for you both to enjoy sexual activities together. You should have an open, honest discussion about what each of you wants, doesn’t want, and so on. You mentioned that you’ve never initiated anything sexual, and while I myself am not sure exactly how to go about initiating sex so I can’t help you on that one, what you can do is initiate a conversation about it, to show her that you care about this, that you care about her and want to find a solution that both of you can work with. In a way, you’ve already shown that; by writing to me, you’re already looking for a solution.
If she understands that you’re asexual, she should also understand that your lack of attraction to her is nothing personal. It’s not a rejection, and it’s not her fault if you don’t enjoy sex in the way that she does. It’s just your personal preference. Explain to her that you feel scared that she is taking it personally, and that she does think it’s her fault. Talk about whatever your anxieties are about sex, and how that’s making you feel scared to be alone with her. Explain to her the reasons why you’re scared of rejecting her, and listen to her point of view. Once you have had a good discussion (or more likely, multiple discussions) about this, you’ll be able to better assess the situation to find a possible solution.
Whatever you do, remember that sex is not your duty to provide, and it is not okay for her to pressure or otherwise coerce you into doing it. Only do it if you genuinely want to, because doing it when you don’t want to isn’t worth the pain and resentment it would breed.
I wish you the best, and hope my advice helps. If you want, feel free to comment here to update us on the situation. Anyone else who wants to provide advice, feel free to comment to this post. However, keep in mind that any comments saying that sexual/asexual relationships never work out or things similar to that will be deleted.
If you have a question of your own to ask, you can ask me here or get in touch with me by email at grasexuality [at] gmail.com.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
So Ily said she wanted to hear some asexuals talking about their views on marriage. So I guess I’ll talk about my views on marriage.
When I was still in Japanese class, I remember we were given some exercise, and I can’t remember exactly what it was about, but I think we were supposed to use the ~と思う construction to comment on what we thought our classmates would be good at, or would become in the future, or something like that. All, of course, in Japanese, so I can’t remember exactly what was said (nor could I decipher everything due to some of my classmates’ strong accents), but someone made the comment that they thought I would make a good mother, and thought I would get married and be happy someday.
I was… a little bit surprised, that someone who had known me for all of a week would think I would be a good mother, though I guess I shouldn’t have been because it’s a standard answer. I just figure you kind of have to know a person better than that to be a good judge of whether someone has kid-smarts (which I don’t), so unless I’ve heard a person specifically say something about motherhood, I wouldn’t even go there. Anyway, I said I didn’t want to get married, and everyone, especially the teachers, seemed shocked. I guess in Japanese culture it’s a huge thing to get married even more so than it is in western culture. They asked why, but I couldn’t really give a full answer because I didn’t want to sit there explaining my stance on marriage for ten minutes, especially since my ability with the language was not that great.
I can’t remember what I told them anymore. I’m not sure if I told them anything.
But really, I just don’t see marriage as being necessary, and given my circumstances, it’s not a worthwhile goal. Continue reading
I got to thinking a little while ago about how we usually talk about asexuals having two distinct orientations (asexual, x-romantic). According to this way of thinking, asexuals then fall into two categories: romantic, and aromantic (with further categorization of the former according to gender preference, but those are the basics). I’ve always found this categorization system rather confusing, because it’s not clear at all what we mean by “romantic.” Romance means different things in different contexts, and in trying to apply this word to a new context, we get confused about which definition we’re trying to apply.
Obviously, it’s clear we’re not talking about styles of prose or poetry, nor does this have anything to do with the Romans. We all know we’re in the general ballpark of love, but beyond that, there are several different ways to interpret it.
If I were to hear someone called “romantic,” the first thing that would come to mind is a personality trait: I would imagine that person as someone with a very idealistic, fanciful outlook on love relationships, which calls to mind princes on white horses. I would think sappiness, naivete, and rescue complex. Red roses, starry skies, candlelit dinners. A person who likes all these things (which are anathema to me). From the context, I can eliminate this interpretation, because I know from my experience with the asexual community that that’s not what we’re referring to, but a person who doesn’t have that background with asexuality would likely be confused. It has always bothered me that the words we use to describe someone like me has this connotation as well, because I am much more of a realist when it comes to love affairs.
But in the context of asexuality, it’s fairly clear that’s not what we mean. According to the AVEN Lexicon, a romantic person is one who experiences romantic attraction (to whatever gender is specified). Okay, then. What’s romantic attraction? According to the wiki:
Romantic attraction is a feeling that causes people to desire a romantic relationship with a specific other person. …
What exactly constitutes a romantic relationship or romantic attraction is difficult to define, and some asexuals reject the romantic/aromantic dichotomy altogether.
See, we even outright acknowledge that it’s not well defined. It seems to me that there are two different components to this so-called “romantic attraction:” structure, and feeling. Continue reading
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.