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:


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!

Rethinking what works

A problem I am having right now: even though I am feeling a very strong urge to be *doing* things to move toward the life I want to be living (specifically with respect to the building-a-family part of that), because I always feel less anxious about things when I am actively taking control of the things I can control, I also just, like, really, really (really) am not into the idea of dating.

Part of this is almost certainly that I just need to be nice to myself; I am still very much in the midst of healing from having my marriage end, and that is taking up a lot of emotional bandwidth, and it will tke time tomove through that.

But I also know that there has never been a time when the prospect of dating actually seemed exciting to me. It is just stressful to think about really, almost all the time.

To clarify: by ‘dating’ here I don’t even really mean ‘pursuing romantic relationships’ in general – actually hanging out with and developing relationships with people I like is great and not stressful. It’s the part where I go on first dates with people that I don’t know how I am going to feel about that I hate.

Ok, I mean, maybe most people hate that? I guess what I mean is more, like, it just straight-up doesn’t work, because that kind of dating doesn’t give me the emotional space I need to connect with people in the first place, somehow?

And I actually read a thing recently that threw thse feelings into relief for me. It’s a comment from this reddit thread:

Dating isn’t for everyone, I think. It definitely wasn’t for me. Friend-to-relationship is the only thing that’s ever worked for me

Which, like, this both does and does not apply to me. I don’t really need to have a developed friendship with someone first, and I don’t even think that’s the ‘best’ thing for me, but I kind of think that *all* of my romantic relationships (even with people I met on OKCupid) have come from a place where on first meeting the person, I wasn’t really looking for something romantic necessarily.

My first two romantic relationships were with people I had known for years. Then there’s my ex-spouse, who I met on OKC, but I wasn’t looking for anything serious at the time (oops). I had another short relationship with someone I’d known for years. I met another person on OKC (again, with a very “well, whatever” attitude going in). And my current boyfriend I met at party for a mutual friend.

…I don’t even really know what I’m saying here. The main point I wanted to make, though:

For whatever reason, reading the above quote suddenly made me give myself permission to reconsider the way I’ve been trying to think about approaching finding new partners. It’s ok for me to say “this approach doesn’t work for me”. That’s ok.

I hate that it takes someone else saying it openly and with self-acceptance for me to also accept that in myself, but it did.

Anyway, I think that for now I will be focusing my energies on doing things that let me expand my social circles and meet new people in non-dating contexts. And I’ll probably be taking even that slowly for now.

And I’m writing it down because I’m more likely to remember it this way.

Embracing my demisexuality has made me more resilient: June 2016 Carnival of Aces submission

[This post is for the June 2016 Carnival of Aces, on the theme of resiliency. The call for submissions is here.]

I am so, so grateful to have found asexual community, and to have found models of sexuality and sexual attraction that reflected my experiences in a very real way. In the (almost) two years since and first embracing demisexuality as a useful model for describing my sexuality, I’ve grown a lot.

It hasn’t always been easy, and I have had periodic doubts, but I’ve also learned to think my way through them, and sometimes come to strong conclusions that helped solidify my sense of identity.

This shift in how I think about myself and my sexuality has made me rethink and recontextualize my romantic and sexual history, my approaches to dating, and my expectations of myself when I do date. I used to beat myself up about not being able to have the kinds of sexual adventures other people have, that I kind of also wanted. I understand now why the ways in which I approach sexual adventure simply have to be different than how many others do it.

And more importantly, I have come to accept that this is really, really ok.

Being able to reconsider what I want from dating, what my expectations are when meeting someone new, and equally importantly, being able to communicate clearly to others around these issues, has saved me a lot of the unnecessary grief, discomfort, self-doubt, and self-denial that I used to continually put myself through. I used to waste to much energy trying to figure out what was *wrong* with me, and now I am free to simply seek out the things hat work for me and not worry about what doesn’t.

It is a huge relief. And it leaves me in a stronger, more stable place, where I am more ready to take on whatever else life throws at me.

I am, without a doubt, more resilient.

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?”

Squishing and crushing, part 2: other times I say ‘crush’ instead of ‘squish’

I left a couple of potentially pertinent things out of last week’s post about squishes and crushes. The point I was making is true: I do sometimes use the word ‘crush’ when what I mean is ‘squish’, simply because the meaning of ‘crush’ is close enough in most contexts that people will get my point without me having to get into a deeper conversation about asexuality (which, shockingly enough, I don’t always want to do).

But there’s another place I use the word crush that is worth mentioning. Sometimes I will say to a romantic partner, “I have a crush on you”, and in that case crush is the word I want, and I am choosing it deliberately. I use it to mean “I am so into you [sexually]”. I am using it here to specifically point at a feeling I am having that is different from my squishes (that hard-to-define, non-sexual attraction I have sometimes to people), and that is unquestionably sexual in nature.

The way I use the word ‘crush’ in this context is also describing a feeling that, for me, can never be fully disentangled from the feeling of being in love. I don’t feel this feeling for people I am not in love with (which makes it different from what most people mean when they talk about crushes), although I don’t always feel it when I am in love either (which is why I differentiate the feelings at all). To some extent, it is one of the ways I say “I love you”, but that ‘s not entirely it.

For me its also a way of talking about a feeling that, in polyamory circles, gets called ‘new relationship energy’ (or NRE). There is a particular rush of goodfeels that can come with new romantic and/or sexual connections, full of endorphin-y goodness, that human biology simply can’t sustain over the long-term, for the most part. It doesn’t last forever, and in any long-term relationship, it is just about guaranteed to lapse.

What I do find, though, is that it can come back! It works like a cycle of periods of endorphin-y goodness, followed by less intense periods that are sustained by the friendship-y, caring, and less intense love-y feelings, until eventually, (always, for me), those super intense early-relationship feels come raring back all over again. And that’s when I am likely to start telling a partner all over again how much of a crush I have on them.

I actually think those feelings are the closest experience I have to a regular old crush, since it actually involves, like, pantsfeels for someone. If I imagine feeling that way about someone I was not in love with, I think that’s about what a crush is for many people?

Please let me know if I’m wrong or whatever.

Squishing and crushing

I really love the word ‘squish.’ Specifically, I love the word squish in its ace-communities-relevant sense of an intense liking or non-sexual attraction for someone, that includes a hard-to-articulate desire for them to return your hard-to-articulate feels for them.

I love the word ‘squish’ in part because it was specifically reading about squishes and their distinction from crushes that helped me come to the realization that demisexuality is a useful model for understanding myself. And I love the word squish aesthetically because it actually just feels right as a word to describe the feelings that I used to understand as crushes, even though they never really were the thing that most other people talk about when they talk about crushes.

It’s the right word to describe a thing I experience. It sounds right and feels right, and actually means the thing I want it to mean, and I can’t even explain how much I love finding those kinds of words.

But sometimes I still use the word ‘crush’ when I know I mean ‘squish.’ Partly it is out of habit – I spent well over a decade describing my squishy feelings as crushes before I even learned about squishes. But the other part of it is that if I use the word ‘crush’, most people will have a close enough idea of what I mean, whereas if I use the word ‘squish’ I might then find myself in a conversation I don’t necessarily want to be having about what that means, and get derailed into playing Ace 101 with someone (which is still new enough for me to be less boring than Gender 101 is to me now, but is definitely not always something I am in the mood for.) And particularly around things like celebrity squishes (i.e. people I do not and am not going to have any kind of relationship with), I don’t feel like the distinction is important enough to split hairs about.

I love words so much, and I want squish to become a more commonly known word, and so I use it sometimes, and I talk about it sometimes, but at others, not so much.

Communication is complicated, basically.

Be yourself (but stretch): dating while demisexual (April 2016 Carnival of Aces submission)

This month’s theme is a very challenging one, and I want to thank our lovely host over at A3 for coming up with it!. For this post, I am going to focus specifically on ways that I can affirm and celebrate my demisexuality in a dating context, since that has been on my mind of late anyway, and because I do feel that it can be a perpetual struggle for me.

I have adopted a strategy of being reasonably upfront about my demisexuality in some (largely passive) ways, in the way I date. My sexual orientation is listed as queer and demisexual on my OKC profile, and I have a link to this blog from my profile as well, for anyone going for extra credit.

People tend to miss those indications, though. Which is fair. I don’t often look at people’s basic stats when I’m on OKC either – I do filter by some of them, but once I’m at a profile I’m far more interested in what people have written there then which boxes they checked.

And I don’t talk about being demisexual when I am on dates with people. So I think a lot of the people I date don’t know about it really. It’s weird, because on the one hand I am afraid of discouraging people, but on the other hand, I want to discourage the kind of people who would be discouraged by that, anyway, so. I don’t know.

I’ve… gotten pretty good at seeming kinda allosexual (mostly accidentally, in how I coped with the weirdness of dating while demisexual back when I had the extra challenge of not realizing that I was demisexual) over the years, in small ways. I usually know within a couple of dates if there is just going to be nothing happening with a person, to be honest, so I can cut things short before people start really expecting sex to happen, so there’s that. And I think there have been times when I have just faked it til I made it – I don’t have to actually be attracted to someone to enjoy sex with them, though I do enjoy it immensely more when I am.

So yes. I guess my approach to dating while demisexual is very much a case of being myself, but stretching that self to fit more closely to expectations. Though I don’t entirely know why I do that, other than a long-standing ingrained habit of avoiding awkwardness, or more specifically, of avoiding disappointing people. I’m… not entirely comfortable with it though, when I think about it.

I am definitely interested to see what others are contributing to this topic, and whether my feelings of discomfort around it are shared!