sexual attraction

Mislabeled: don’t call me picky! November 2017 Carnival of Aces Submission

This month’s Carnival of Aces topic seems like it was deliberately designed to entice me out of my prolonged break from blogging, so here I am!

This post is in response to the November 2017 Carnival of Aces, hosted by WUT on the topic of “Questioning, Exploration, and Mislabeling”

I have… a lot to say about this topic, but I don’t want to retread too much of what I’ve already said, so if you’re interested in the questioning and exploration I went through in the process of coming to a demisexual identity, you can read through the phases (and cycles) I went through as follows:

I came out strong with “Recognizing Demisexuality”

But I clearly wasn’t as sure as I seemed, as the following year I returned with “Demisexuality, confusion, and self-doubt”, and “Demisexuality: debunking a common misconception”

Since then, though, I’ve become much more comfortable in my identity, and have written about how “Embracing my demisexuality has made me more resilient!”

It’s been a journey, to say the least! But today, I also wanted to talk about something else. Because demisexuality does very often get misunderstood or mislabeled (and not just as being ‘normal’, as I debunked in the above link.) Sometimes demisexuality is also mislabeled as simply being ‘picky’.

This… is an unfair assessment. I don’t think that demisexual people are inherently ‘pickier’ than anyone else (although I’m sure some of us are picky, too!) A picky person usually has a list of criteria that causes them to reject things they might otherwise be into. Everyone who experiences attraction to others has *some* criteria by which people’s attractiveness is measured (unless you’re attracted to literally everyone, I guess?), and the ponit at which these criteria tip you over into being ‘picky’ is kind of nebulous, but ultimately if you think about it, demisexual people are likely *less* picky than allosexual people when it comes to sexual attraction.

Think about it: demisexual people experience sexual attraction only after forming a bond with a person. Although this may not be universally true, what this generally means is that demisexual people experience sexual attraction as a result of personality, interpersonal and relational traits in a person. So it’s fair to say that in general, our ‘criteria’ for experiencing attraction run along those lines.

It’s important to always remember that in the general case, allosexual people’s experiences of attraction are also very much affected by these sorts of criteria, and personality traits can very much make-or-break someone’s attractiveness to allosexual and demisexual people alike. The thing that differentiates allosexual and demisexual experience of sexual attraction are physical criteria.

Allosexual can and do sometimes experience sexual attraction (or lack thereof) based solely on physical characteristics. An allosexual person may be able to reject someone as potentially attractive before knowing anything at all about their personality, based solely on the physical criteria governing their attractions. On the other hand, demisexual people are far less likely to have these kinds of criteria for their experiences of attraction (I’ve written before about how I don’t).

In other words, I’d argue that it’s likely, in general, that allosexual people are technically ‘pickier’ than demisexual people. I even used this idea to pep talk myself when my dating prospects were leaving me sad!

A better way of thinking about demisexuality, rather than in terms of pickiness, is in terms of decisiveness – demisexual people often take longer than allosexual people to figure out whether they are or even can be attracted to other people.

So basically, stop calling me ‘picky’ – I’m just indecisive*! :P

*Not actually accurate either, for the record!

Brief thought: dating and ‘types’

In general, when you look at the group of people I have seriously dated (and/or been seriously into but maybe never dated), there’s really no discernible physical ‘type’ of people I am into. My dating history has been exclusively white (and my being-into-people history is primarily, though not exclusively, white as well); a function of racism and white supremacy that I am complicit in enough that my social circles have consistently been pretty overwhelmingly white. But that’s about the only through-line I can identify.

And this makes a lot of sense, given that I am demisexual – although I develop an attraction to people’s features once I am close to them, their looks aren’t the initial draw and whatever qualities do initially draw me to people aren’t correlated with physical appearance, so that’s pretty much that.

I have noticed, though, that in a minor way I do have a sort of type; it’s just that it has shifted in various ways throughout my life. The pattern is clear though: when I am partnered I experience a sort-of attraction to other people who look like my partner(s) in various ways.

I say sort-of, because it’s really a very shallow attraction – scratch the surface and you’ll find me just as uncertain about my desire to be intimate with these people as I am about any other random person. But there is a veneer of something that appears, nevertheless.

I don’t actually have any serious thoughts about this, right now. It’s mostly just an interesting observation (er, I hope it’s interesting, anyway?)

I’d definitely be interested to hear from other demi/grey-ace/otherwise ace spectrum people who sometimes experience sexual or romantic attraction though! Is this an experience I share with other people?

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: K is for “kinky”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

K is for “kinky”

There is this thing cis people sometimes (often?) do, when faced with the idea of a cis person wanting to have sex with a trans person (and this applies especially when a cis man is into a trans woman): they see it as ‘kinky’.

I don’t know if it is immediately apparent that this is messed up, on a bunch of levels really, but it should be. On its face, it is invalidating of the trans person in question in more ways than one.

The most immediate reason for this is that if you see sex with a trans person as inherently different than sex with a cis person, that’s blatantly transphobic. If trans women are women, if you really believe that, then sex with a trans woman is just sex with a woman. Which may or may not be kinky depending on the people involved and what they do, but the kink isn’t because that person is trans.

Secondarily, though, when people jump straight from, ‘oh, Person A is into Person B’ to ‘Person A must be super kinky, otherwise they wouldn’t be into Person B’, that carries some pretty terrible implications about their opinions of Person B. If the only way you can picture someone being an object of desire is if they are someone else’s particular kink, then you must think really poorly of that person.

Or, as is more likely, you must be reducing the entirety of their personhood and what they have to offer down to a single aspect of their identity, as often happens to trans people in all kinds of contexts, and is never ok.

Sexual attraction is a tricky thing, and just because someone is into a person that you aren’t into, that doesn’t mean their attraction, different from yours though it is, is inherently kinky. I think most of the time people know this, but somehow that knowledge flies out the window when faced with people’s attractions to trans folks.

And it’s gotta stop, not just because it’s shitty on its face, but also because it is a symptom of a much larger form of cissexism, wherein cis people are seen simply as people, but trans people are mostly just seen as trans.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

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!