“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:


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!

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.