attraction

“Naming it”: August 2016 Carnival of Aces Round-up

This is the round-up of posts for the August 2016 Carnival of Aces, hosted by yours truly, on the topic of “Naming it”. Posts are listed in order of submission. Thank you so much to all the contributors; I’ve really enjoyed reading all of your posts!

Naming it – How identifying as asexual changed my life | Ace Advice

Does what it says on the tin: the author of ace advice talks about the importance of discovering and coming to identify with asexuality.

Carnival of Aces August 2016: “Naming It” | A3

The author of A3 describes the process by which they discovered asexuality, and the moment they first saw the phrase “straight by default”.

Names Acknowledge Existence | the notes which do not fit

A personal reflection on the importance of naming things in order to acknowledge and validate their existence, especially with respect to asexual identities and realities.

The importance of labels in the asexual community (if you want to use them), and my story | Spacey Acey

Emilia tells the story of her discovery of asexuality and her first forays into asexual online communities, complete with all the new words and concepts she had never encountered before, and her thoughts and feeling about those experiences.

#1805 | Only Fragments

The fabulous poet of Only Fragments has written a lovely meditation on names and diversity.

Naming It | quizzicalsloth

Jay writes about the comfort he finds in having a name for his experiences of asexuality, and further explores some thoughts about the variety of words and identities that there are to be found within asexual communities.

Putting Words to feelings: August 2016 Carnival of Aces Submission | Valprehension

I wrote about the concepts of primary and secondary attraction, the split attraction model (and particularly aesthetic attraction), and squishes!

[CN: rape] How Words Can Heal: Why I Needed Asexuality Awareness | yoonede
Yoonede writes about going through more than three decades without knowing that asexuality is a thing, and all of the feelings of confusion and brokenness, and the almost inevitable trauma, that came with that.

Naming feelings | (Purr)ple (L)ace
Laura talks about the general importance of finding words for her feelings, and describes a relationship for which words continue to fail her.

When Someone Learns a Word, But It Will Take a Lot for Them to Grasp the Concept it Describes | From Fandom to Family

This post explores both the power of finding a name for something you already experience (such as asexuality), and the ways in which simply being able to name something is not enough.

Naming and discovering new categories | mundo heterogéneo

Isaac explains some of his varied reactions to new words and concepts from asexual communities, the reasons why he more easily recognized himself withint he definition of aromanticism than asexuality, and discusses some of difficulty in bringing these ideas back into his native language of Spanish.

Why “Romantic Orientation Does Not Apply” Does Not Cut It (For Me) | From Fandom to Family
luvtheheaven sneaks in a technically late addition (:P), exploring the grey spaces where she is still struggling to find words for herself.

Putting words to feelings: August 2016 Carnival of Aces submission

Despite the fact that I set this month’s theme myself, I’ve been a little at a loss about what I wanted to contribute to the Carnival of Aces this time around.

I am very big on finding words that capture my experience of the world. It’s why I love to read so much, all of the time, and my favourite books are the ones in which the authors have found a perfect way of describing an experience that had been so inarticulable to me that I’d barely been consciously aware that I experienced that same thing as well. And I’ve felt this way about a lot of concepts and terms in ace blogosphere/thoughtspaces, so that’s why this month’s theme is “naming it”; it’s all about that experience of finding words for things you already felt.

But at the same time, I’ve already written about the generalities of how finding ace-generated models of attraction(s) was valuable to me, and how I wished they could gain traction in the broader world, not to mention how demisexuality itself has been a game-changer for me (and both for previous carnivals no less!) For today, I’m just going to talk a little more directly about some more particular concepts that have captured my experience in wonderfully validating ways:

Primary and Secondary Attractions

Really, it was the concept of primary and secondary sexual attractions that helped me find comfort in a demisexual identity – I used to struggle against the definition of demisexuality that depends on “strong emotional bonds” because I was worried that the speediness with which I can form strong emotional bonds somehow disqualified me (because of course, because self-doubt, because anxiety, because jerkbrain). But somewhere along the way I saw a definition of demisexuality as experiening secondary sexual attraction, but not primary sexual attraction, and this immediately clicked with me. It felt right. It felt like me.

Mostly, anyway.

But I still had some doubts.

You’ll find in those links, though, the evidence of some other concepts that have een instrumental to me, namely:

The Split Attraction Model (and specifically Aesthetic Attraction)

One of the things that made me feel uncertain whether demisexual was a reasonable label for me was the fact that, sometimes, I do feel an instant attraction to someone based on how they look. For a while, I felt weird even admitting this myself, because I didn’t want to have to go back to the confusion and sense of brokenness I had had before discovering demisexuality.

But then, these instantaneous attractions have never been sexual for me. They are about, like “I would love to have this person around so I could look at them all the time and watch them move and stuff.” And so, the first time I saw someone mention aesthetic attraction was a real lightbulb moment for me, that allowed me to continue to embrace the demisexual label without denying parts of my experience. Yay!

I think those were the most important concepts for me in coming into my own as a comfortably ace-identified human. But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention one last term that I just love with all the fuzziness my heart possesses:

Squishes

I’ve addressed this term directly before, but yeah, discovering the word squish helped me retroactively recontextualize all those confusingly strong but totally non-sexual feelings I used to call crushes in my youth!

Demisexuality and kink: assorted thoughts

[Content note: this post mentions sex, masturbation, and kink but doesn’t reference any specific sex acts of kinks.]

I have had a long-standing pet theory around the ways that my demisexuality and my kinkiness are related, and the ways they aren’t.

The thing is, for almost as long as I have been masturbating*, I have been getting off to kinky fantasies. These fantasies rarely include particular people (though when there are people in my life that I am attracted to, I will also sometimes fantasize about them), but are rather filled with generic placeholders that exist to create the scenarios and dynamics that turn me on.

Which is a long-winded way of saying: it is clear to me that there are certain kinds of dynamics and scenarios that turn me on in and of themselves, and do not require sexual attraction toward the people involved to work for me.

And I sometimes wonder whether it would work for me if I were to try to enact some of my fantasies in real life, with people that shared my turn-ons but that I wasn’t close enough to to be attracted to. I actually really want to believe this is the case sometimes, simply because it would make it a lot easier for me to have the possibility of having and enjoying these sorts of experiences, without the really high bar that is involved in finding people sexually attractive as a demisexual.

…But the more I learn about myself, the more I think this isn’t actually the case. I have had some thoroughly pleasant sexual experiences in the recent past that actually let me check off some things from my bucket list, with people I genuinely like and whose company I enjoy, that I just wasn’t able to actually be fully into, and that were not ultimately particularly sexually fulfilling. They were interesting experiences rather than transcendental ones, basically.

I have also come to learn that the extent to which I am interested in engaging with kink, and the specific kinds of kinks I want to pursue with any individual person are highly dependent on the context of my relationship with that person – no matter how much some dynamic might appeal to me in the abstract, it is not going to be something I want to explore with everyone (I mean, obv, I guess?), or even with everyone I am attracted to, or even everyone I am in love with, or anything else.

Pretty much any change in a sexual/romantic relationship can change the ways I want to engage sexually with that person. And to be honest, I have not ever started out wanting kinky sex with anyone I was into – it’s a thing that develops over time as we figure each other out. And when I write that down it seems super obvious and maybe lots of people will be like ‘um, yes, that is how that works’ (though also I have been guilt-tripped for not being interested in engaging in kink with a particular person – a partner who wasn’t even kinky, but felt like I was somehow withholding anyway because I guess they felt they had some sort of right to every aspect of my sexuality(?) – so I guess not everyone gets that), but for some reason I hadn’t quite internalized it before now.

But anyway, my point is it is weirdly relieving to have grasped this understanding enough to maybe start developing better strategies for figuring the hows and whens and “do I even wants to”s of engaging with my kinky self and fantasies.


*which, for me is a thing that didn’t start until I was 16, and even then it was literally a “so, people seem to think this sex thing is a big deal but I don’t get the interest at all, but maybe I should try and see what an orgasm is like or something?” experiment and not something I felt any natural drive to do. At least not until after I figured it out. This digression brought to you by “how did I not realize I was on the asexual spectrum way earlier than I did?”

Monosexuality: I still don’t get it

A few years back, I wrote about how I struggle to understand how monosexuality (that is, being attracted to only one gender – straight or exclusively gay or lesbian) is even a thing. I know now that a great deal of my confusion around this is likely related to my demisexuality – because I don’t experience primary sexual attraction, it makes sense to me that sex and gender are not terribly relevant to my sexuality, I guess.

But this new-found knowledge doesn’t help me understand what it’s like to be monosexual so much as it clarifies why I don’t understand it (on top of the original obvious fact that it is simply not my experience, being bi/pan/omni version of queer and all). And now I also have a whole new set of questions around romantic orientation – I am so curious to hear from people whose romantic orientation is limited only to some genders, but not all, because I can’t wrap my head around it any more than I can sexual orientation. Less so even, because I can at least write off most people’s experience of sexual attraction as simply something I am never going to get, while I actaully feel like I have a pretty good grasp on romantic orientation.

So anyway, my little blog has a grown a lot since I last asked about this stuff, and I might now get more perspectives on this than I did back then, so I’m just going to repeat some of the questions from my first post about this:

So monosexuals: how do you define the boundaries of the sex[/gender] to which you are attracted, and what qualities are the essential ones? Can you explain what might happen if you found someone of a sex[/gender] to which you are not attracted, but who otherwise possessed all of the qualities you would normally consider essential? What makes the difference? Is it even knowable?

And monoromantics: kind of the same questions, I guess?

And people who have different sexual/romantic orientations (sexually pan, but romantically mono maybe?): I super want to hear from you too! Tell me about yourself and how this stuff works, because I want to learn!

March 2016 Carnival of Aces Roundup

Here is the roundup of posts for this month’s Carnival of Aces, on the topic of gender norms and asexuality! I loved being the host this month, and I have enjoyed reading all of your submissions so much; there has been much squeeing with joy, so thank you all who contributed! Without further ado, here are this month’s submissions, in the order I received them:

Passive vs. Active Femininity: Does Asexuality Affect It? | the notes which do not fit
Sara examines the ways in which her femininity is often the result of passive conformity to female norms rather than an active gender expression, and considers whether her approach to femme-ness is related to her asexuality.

(a)Gender and (a)Sexuality: Chickens and Eggs | darkmetineknight
Maris considers the ways in which kyr dysphoria contributes to kyr sex-repulsion, and vice versa, and the way these things feed back into kyr agender and asexual identity, concluding that they are so deeply related they can’t possibly be pulled apart.

Female Stereotypes and Asexuality | aroacelennie
Lennie writes about how, despite their agender identity, other people often try to frame the aro and ace aspects of their identity through common female archetypes.

When Dudes Talk Gender & Asexuality | The Ace Theist
Coyote unpacks some of the oversimplifications and other problems with the ways some asexual guys talk about the tensions between their gender and their asexuality.

Gender and Asexuality | quizzicalsloth
Amber explores potential explanations for asexual people’s tendency to not feel a strong connection to binary genders, from a personal perspective, and considers how gender plays a role in their experiences of platonic and aesthetic attractions, and relationships.

Do gender roles serve any purpose for asexuals? | It’s An Ace Thing
Dee questions the purposes gender norms serve, and concludes that many gender norms simply don’t serve asexual people.

Genderqueer and demisexual: two sides of the same coin for me | Valprehension
I wrote about the ways in which my genderqueerness and my demisexuality are inextricably tangled up with each other, and fundamental to my overall identity and sense of self.

Sexism at work | A3
The author of A3 relates their experiences of sexism (and heterosexism) in the workplace, as an agender aro ace who is not out about those aspects of their identity, and who is perceived as a woman.

Gender, Or Why I’m Glad I’m Aro/Ace | Grey Is My Favourite Colour
Mara explains why they’re glad to be aro/ace, because of the potential complications of parsing gendered attractions (and sexual/romantic orientations) as a non-binary person.

The Healer Role | Prismatic Entanglements
Elizabeth considers her tendency to take on healer roles in video games, and considers how this role relates to her identity as a cisgender woman, and the ways in which this tendency is reflected (and not) in her asexual activism.

By nature of being asexual, I’m defying gender norms | From Fandom to Family
luvtheheaven unpacks some of the interactions between gender norms, (especially heteronormativity) and asexuality, and how those norms can make it difficult to come to an asexual identity, and even more difficult to get others to understand it.

Gender Norms and Asexuality | Aro Ace Gin
Gin considers the ways in which her asexuality has impacted her relationship to her gender as a cis woman.

Asexual E-Dating Diaries #1 | la pamplemouse
The author of la pamplemouse talks about her early attempts at online dating as an asexual cis woman.

Non-Binary Gender Norms and (A)Sexuality: Yeah, No | Queer As Cat
Vesper talks about why they just don’t see any connection between gender norms and sexuality for them, given that there are no gender norms that apply to their gender (maverique) in the first place, and much more!

On Gender and Asexuality | conasultingamadman
Bonnie explains how embracing her asexuality helped her understand her relationship to both femininity and androgyny, describes her journey toward a panromantic identity, and considers her feelings around others’ perceptions of her as a cis het white girl.

My Gender Aesthetics are All Kinds of Ace | The City of Cuova
S. Knaus unpacks the ways in which their asexuality has freed them up to explore their personal gender aesthetics without regard for whether they are attractive to others, and many other things.

Asexuality and Gender Presentation | [A] Life of Experiences
Jeremy writes about his experience in trying to subtly play with his gender presentation, how his asexual identity helped him find the confidence to do so, and both his struggles and enjoyment in pushing back against being seen as just another straight dude.

Obscure lines: agender and asexual comes together | golden weasel
golden weasel writes about the ways in which their agender-ness and asexuality are inter-related.

What Are You? A Question of Mixed Race, Gender, And Asexuality | Halfthoughts
The author of Halfthoughts explores the relationships and parallels among their Hapa/mixed race, asexual, and non-binary identities.

Gender in Space | Becoming a Person
elainexe explores her general lack of any strong gender identity, and her attempts to understand what gender is, linking some of her observations back to her asexuality.

No | Aros and Aces
Roses considers a wade range of influences – from Purity Culture to Megan Trainor – on their developing identity, and the ways in which coing to an aro ace agender identity has freed them from a lot of the baggage they were handed growing up.

Societal Conflations of Primary and Secondary Sexual Attraction

A lot of the time, I see people making moral claims and/or just arguing about whether it’s better to be (sexually and/or romantically; the two are usually treated as the same thing) attracted to people based on who they are on the inside, or if it’s ok to have preferences based on appearance.

Often times these conversations get totally gridlocked, and it is pretty clear to me why that is, although the people having them rarely manage to see it. It’s that people think they’re talking about the same thing (usually sexual attraction) when they are in fact talking about two different things: primary and secondary sexual attraction.

Brief definitions: Primary sexual attraction is the kind of sexual attraction that a person might feel for another person more or less immediately after meeting them. My understanding is that it is a visceral response based mainly on superficial (or otherwise immediately recognizable) characteristics of people. I don’t totally know, y’all, because I don’t experience primary sexual attraction, so if anyone wants to help me out in the comments that’d be great.

Secondary sexual attraction is a form of sexual attraction that develops only when a person knows someone really well and has formed an emotional bond with them. It’s based on things like the ways in which those people relate to each other and positive emotions they feel toward one another.

I’m going to go out on bit of a limb here and say that most allosexual people experience both kinds of sexual attraction. The way I think about secondary sexual attraction in an allosexual context is that it’s the thing that allows people to remain attracted to each other over time in long-term relationships, as their bodies inevitably change drastically from however they used to look, and stop having the characteristics that caused the initial primary sexual attraction they may have felt for one another.

My impression is that this sort of thing, over time, can also change the characteristics to which a person is primarily sexually attracted (i.e. if an allosexual person falls for/develops secondary sexual attraction for a person with some characteristic they are not usually primarily sexually attracted, they may find themselves subsequently developing a primary sexual attraction to that characteristic, and responding to it viscerally in the person they are attracted to, and possibly in others.) I’ve seen this in action, for the record; more than one person that I’ve had a long-term sexual relationship has mentioned at some point that they were surprised by how attractive they wound up finding some characteristic in me that they weren’t usually attracted to.

So, secondary sexual attraction is important. And primary sexual attraction is, at least to some extent, and/or at least for some people, malleable.

But, that’s not the same thing as saying the primary sexual attraction is controllable, or that it is fair to moralize about people’s visceral sexual responses to people. I don’t think that most people are capable of completely eliminating their primary sexual urges, nor are they capable of somehow making them egalitarian or whatever the fuck it is that proponents of non-superficial attraction think people should do. You may be able to moralize about someone’s behaviour when they have a visceral sexual attraction to someone but the fact that they experience it (or don’t, for that matter) in response to whatever characteristic they do or do not respond to isn’t in and of itself worthy of judgment. If they use the presence of lack of primary sexual attraction as a measure of other people’s general worth as humans, or are more likely to be friends with or give jobs to people they are viscerally attracted to, that is fucked up and wrong. And that is a real pattern that we see happening to people. But the problem is not inherent to the fact that some (I guess most? this still confuses me to be honest) people do feel this kind of attraction, the problem is with what they do with that fact.

For the record, I also have a *lot* of thoughts about things like people specific preferences for (or against) certain races of people, etc. I do not think these sorts of claims are even remotely benign, and despite what I have said here, I don’t believe that sexual preferences are somehow magically above criticism, but I am going to save further unpacking of that issue for a future post. I simply want to set a foundation here for the idea that I understand that primary sexual attraction exists, and that I don’t believe that it is inherently wrong or less moral than secondary attraction.

Call for Submissions! March 2016 Carnival of Aces: Gender norms and asexuality

Hello all! I am so excited be your host for this month’s Carnival of Aces!

For those that don’t know, a blogging carnival is an online event where a host blog suggests a theme, and people submit pieces based around that theme.

The Carnival of Aces is a monthly blogging carnival that was started all the way back in 2011, and is currently run by the awesome ace resource The Asexual Agenda. For more information check out the Carnival of Aces Masterpost.

Last month’s Carnival was hosted by It’s an Ace Thing, on the theme of platonic attraction. Check out the post roundup!

For this month, I’ve chosen the theme of gender norms and asexuality. The relationship between gender norms and asexuality is interesting to me because of just how much traditional ideas of gender are directly tied to traditional (i.e. compulsory and hetero) ideas of sexuality.

There’s a bunch of ways you could go with this theme, and here are some possible ideas to get your writerly thoughts going, grouped into two rough categories:

  1. Personal experiences of gender and asexuality
    How has your asexuality (or demi or gray-sexuality) affected your feelings about your gender? Has your gender presentation ever caused problems for you related to your asexuality (e.g. unwanted attention or expectations of your behaviour)? Alternatively, does your gender identity have any impact on your feelings about your asexuality? Does your understanding of your gender inform your understanding of your asexuality, or vice versa?
  2. Attraction(s), gender, and asexuality

    • For anyone in the community: does gender play a role in your experience of platonic and/or aesthetic attraction? How do gender norms impact your platonic relationships? Tell me about how that works!
    • For romantic aces (and demis and gray-as): does gender play a role in your experience of romantic attraction? How, and why (or why not)? How do gender norms play out in your romantic relationships?
    • For demis and gray-as who have experienced sexual attraction: does gender play a role for you in that? Where does gender come into play for attraction based on an emotional connection rather than physical traits?

Or maybe the topic of gender norms and asexuality has inspired you to think about something completely different and you want to write about that! I am excited to see what all of you have to say about this topic.

Posts can be submitted to me in various ways:
email: valprehension@gmail.com
twitter: @valprehension
Or you can can post a link in the comments here if you want!

If you want to submit anonymously (or if you want to submit with credit but don’t want to host the post on your own blog/tumblr/whatever), send me an email, and I can put your post up here as a guest post!