sexual relationships

Relationship anarchy and me: November 2016 Carnival of Aces Submission

[This post is in response to the November 2016 Carnival of Aces, hosted by It’s An Ace Thing on the topic of Relationship Anarchy]

Oh boy, do I have thoughts about this month’s theme! I suspect this post will be a bit of a rambly mess, but at least some of y’all seem to enjoy my rambly messes, so I guess this one’s for you!

Before I dive in, though, a quick(ish) definition: relationship anarchy is best described as the attitude that the only rules governing the function and form of your relationships with others are the rules set by the people in those relationships. In practice, this means consciously relinquishing (though not necessarily going against the tide of) societal rules and definitions for what relationships (of whatever kind) should look like, what they should mean, and how they should be valued.

The relationships a relationship anarchist participates in could look like anything: they may make monogamous sexual and/or romantic commitments, or they may not; they may prioritize biological family, or romantic partnerships over other relationships, or they may not. The point in relationship anarchy is not to fit  or to defy any particular relationship models, but simply to try to build relationships without any regard for those models in the first place.

Hopefully that makes sense?

Now, me!

I have long felt a great deal of affinity with relationship anarchy – because a lot of societal norms around relationships don’t work for me anyway (I’m not straight; I am demi*; I’m … um, just don’t ever tell me bio-family relationships are inherently valuable, mmkay?), I’ve naturally gravitated toward trying to finding my own path through the wilderness of human relationships.

I’ve also been thinking about this stuff a lot, because I’ve been dealing with a lot of disruption in my romantic/sexual (the two very much go hand-in-hand for me – at this point, I feel it safe to say that I don’t experience sexual attraction unless I am falling in love with – or already in love with – someone) entanglements over the last 1-2 years, and I’ve been actively trying to figure out what sorts of relationship structures I want to have in my life.

I haven’t had an exclusive sexual or romantic commitment in more than a decade, but at the same time I don’t take ‘polyamorous’ as one of my identities, particularly. Polyamory is something I’ve been practicing for some time, but it’s not fundamental for me; it’s the way my relationships have been built over the last while, for a complicated bunch of reasons, none of which are as cut-and-dried as they once were. For the first time in a long while, basically, it’s something that’s at least open to negotiation for me.

Weirdly, I started writing this post thinking I was going to get around to the reasons that I don’t really identify with relationship anarchy when it gets right down to it, but I actually think it’s a perfect fit for at least the way I try to approach all my relationships. While I’ve definitely internalized some of the messages I’ve been raised with about what various kinds relationships ‘should’ look like, and that impacts my own approach and desires within relationships, but ultimately my relationships are reasonably collaborative efforts, and I’m not bothered when they don’t look like the norm.

I also kind of suspect that this is true for most people when you get right down to it. Even those that feel the pressure of norms very often flout them when it is convenient; some people are more likely to hide the non-normative aspects of their relationships than others, I guess, but I’m not sure that’s a relevant distinction here.

What this says to me is that relationship anarchy is more important as a concept than an identity (at least for me). I think it is important to actively talk about how it’s ok and probably even important to let your relationships deviate from norms, because trying to use a one-size-fits-all model is a recipe for disaster in most cases. Relationship anarchy is a great model because it centres mutual consent and active communication rather than assumptions around relationship questions like sexual and romantic exclusivity, what does and does not constitute a breaking of any such commitments (since there is often a great deal of disagreement about this), and many other things.

I also think that the principles of relationship anarchy is particularly important and potentially useful for ace and aro people, simply because it is a model that inherently creates space for whatever kinds of intimate/interdependent relationships people want to build. The idea of making a lifelong commitment to someone that doesn’t involve sex and/or romance is still strangely revolutionary/unthinkable to many people, for instance, despite that fact that it may very be an ideal for many ace and/or aro people.

So, I guess I’m very happy to have this as a topic for the Carnival, and I look forward to reading everyone else’s submissions!

*er, ok, some kinds of relationship norms actually fit better with demisexuality than allosexuality (wait before having sex! Don’t do it with lots of people! or whatever), but nevertheless, within the (largely non-religious) dating eco-system where I find myself, it’s more of a problem than not.

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!

First Dates, Hetero Dating, and Double Standards

I had a really depressing revelation about the hetero dating world today. I was thinking about the ridiculous double standard many straight men hold wherein they will happily have sex with someone they just met, but will harshly judge the women who have that sex with them, or who do the same with other men.

This attitude always particularly astonishes and confuses me because engaging in slut-shaming is precisely counter-productive to these men’s desires to have sex with women. And so I tossed a question about it into a dating-oriented facebook community I’m a member of. Among the many thoughtful and thought-provoking responses I got, one in particular is sticking with me.

A common theme in shaming women for having first-date sex is the idea that it displays poor judgment on their part, thus revealing to be lacking in long-term potential. Which, initially this seems an absurd judgment to make against someone without also making the same claim about men – it’s an obvious double standard.

Until you remember that women are, of course, at far greater risk of sexual violence, and that going back to a mostly strange man’s house is more likely to end badly for her than it would be for a man going to a strange woman’s house. For that matter, it is statistically more dangerous for a woman to invite a man back to her place, too.

To be clear, I don’t think that deciding to have sex with someone, on a first date or at any other time, tells you much about that person’s judgment – and I definitely don’t think it’s okay to chalk up women’s victimization at the hands of misogynists to their poor judgment. But it is interesting(?) to consider these men’s perspectives on the situation.

From the perspective of the kind of man who holds the kinds of attitudes that lead him to devalue women who actively seek out sex, there a number of additional things that might cause him to look down on a woman who slept with him on a first date, specifically. If we’re being totally honest, this dude is probably employing deliberate manipulation tactics to “seduce” his partners: he may lie to them about his long-term intentions/what he is looking for or wants from the relationship; he may pretend to be more compatible with her than he really is; he may pay compliments we doesn’t really mean.

Moreover, the kind of man who behaves this way usually has a peer group that shares his attitudes and behaviours toward women – which means that he believes this behaviour is even more common than it actually is. He may believe that it is just how all men are, making it *always* a bad idea for a woman to have sex with man pretty much, um, ever.

And then I realized that at some point, many misogynist men, when they do manage to get sex on the first date, might genuinely be left with the feeling that they can’t believe they got away with it. As in, they can’t believe she fell for it.

And that somehow, in their minds, that entire interaction reflects more poorly on her than it does on them.

Which, that is such an awful thing to realize about the way other people probably see the world. And it makes me feel exhausted and wonder how things will ever get better. I don’t know how to combat the self-fulfilling prophecy of actively and deliberately trying to get the better of a woman’s best intentions and judgment, and then blaming them when you succeed. I don’t know how to make this stop, except that I guess as the proportion of non-assholes to assholes among straight men increases, more straight women will become accustomed to being treated well and with respect, and it will be easier to spot the assholes as they stand out more?

Because holy fuck I hope so.