sexual attraction

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?”

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.

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!

Dating while demisexual: the bright side

I’ve written a few times about the anxieties and confusion I have experienced as a result of my demisexuality (from back when I didn’t understand that I am demi). I’ve also been having anxieties of other kinds around my dating prospects as a queer, trans, and non-monogamous person. I obviously only want to date people who are into and supportive these aspects of myself, and that limits my dating pool significantly.

I have been including the fact that I am on the ace spectrum on the mental laundry list of “obstacles” to me particularly when it comes to finding a potential partner of the sort who might want to co-parent with me, but I just realized today that my demisexuality is actually a plus in this regard.

You see, allosexual generally find love (or whatever) by first finding people they find sufficiently sexually attractive to date, and then seeing if they are compatible in the broader romantic/whatever-kind-of-relationship-they-want sense. But I don’t need to start with that narrower pool, though – literally anyone is someone I could be attracted to, if we are romantically compatible.

It’s not going to make a huge difference, but at least it’s something.

PSA of the Day: On sexual attraction and preferences

There is a world
of difference
between

realizing you tend to fall for people who look a certain way

and

deciding that you “just aren’t attracted to”
everyone in the entire world
who doesn’t have those traits

one is pattern recognition
the other is self-fulfilling prophecy

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.