For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Today, someone found a page of my blog by searching ‘why do crushes have to be sexual asexual curiosities’. I’m counting that as an anonymous question. And my first thought was that they don’t- squishes are an example of the way asexuals are re-inventing the crush, and I’ve seen it used in a load of different ways, from a typical crush with no sexual component to an intense intellectual stimulation of an academic superior. The point of squishing is that no relationship is artificially promoted as ideal, the defining points of a relationship are what it means for you.

But that’s a useless answer to the question, based mostly on the dreamland that’s in my head.

I’ve actually always thought of crushes as signifying romantic attraction, rather than sexual attraction. That might be one reason that crushes have to be sexual- because people assume that the sexual and the romantic are the same.

I think sexuality is useful to justify oneself, and it is particularly useful to justify hedonistic tendencies. The idea of being swept away by lust is overwhelming, that burning feeling in your brain seems so intense that there’s no way it can’t be connected to this sex thing everyone’s talking about. I think sexuality/romance is often used as a metaphor for spontaneity/permanence. Look at the Fisher Model of lust, attraction and attachment. These are made to typify phases of a relationship- the model seems quite prescriptive when attached to asexual or aromantic people, but at one end, you have slow, stolid attachment, at the other you have wild, passionate lust. Lust at first site, lust which does not obey rules. We’re taught that the first wild bloomings of emotion are all about sex.

More practically, non-sexual crushes are bewildering even for someone familiar with asexuality. The script for a crush is “Wow, I really wanna throw them onto my bed and…,” realising that there is no end goal, or that the end goal is simply basic person-person intimacy, can be a bizarre and hollow feeling. I know, I’ve been there. On the other hand, once you’ve got the hang of questioning exactly how you would like your crush to ideally manifest, there is a certain wonderful power in making the crush an end, rather than a means, there is an incredible liberation in enjoying the ups and downs of crushing or squishing for what they are, not as a stepping-stone to something else.

The lens of sexuality is always the easy answer to reach for when a sexual person is questioning their feelings about attraction. But it isn’t always the only lens that fits. I think this is one of the great things about the theory I see coming out of the asexual community. Sexuality becomes just one tool amongst many. And non-sexual feelings can be as spontaneous and fiery as any lust.


Comments on: "Why do crushes have to be sexual?" (9)

  1. I get what I consider to be nonsexual not-really-romantic crushes (I don’t use “squish” because to me that carries the connotation of being somehow *less* than a crush, which I vehemently object to), so as a result this question doesn’t seem very difficult for me at all. I tend to think the person in question is fabulous and awesome and amazing and want to spend all of my time with them and be their new BFF. Sex doesn’t come into it at all. (Nor does aesthetic attraction, for that matter – I’ve crushed hardcore on someone I thought was pretty ugly before!) The closest I’ve been able to describe it is that it’s a bit as if my interest (\o/ autistic interest patterns) switched to a person rather than an activity… whiiich is decidedly unhelpful for anyone not autistic, ha.

    Is the script for a crush really about sex? Because I always thought crushes were, even in mainstream sexual culture, mainly about emotion – that if you just really want to have *sex* with someone that’s lust, and crush entails a certain desire to know them and become close to them as a person. But that may just be my asexiness coming through.

    • Kaz- I don’t know very much at all about ‘interest’ as used in autistic communities, but from the little I do know, it sounds like a useful model for some types of crush/squish.

      The idea of crushes representing romantic rather than sexual attraction is something I agree with you on, and I was thinking of including it in the post, but never got to it for some reason. But I think sex is often presented as an end goal when it isn’t actually.

      • It’s actually a matter of autistic symptoms/traits – that autistic people tend to have obsessive interests. This may present differently, but for me for instance I’ll regularly have the desire for a specific interest overwhelm me and spend like a week or so with my mind on this 24/7 (my interests tend to be fandom-related or occasionally something crafty; have got obsessed with jewellery-making before). After that it starts waning, although I think is still stronger than most NT’s interests, and in some time – few weeks to few months – it gets replaced by a new one. Crushes to me have a similar degree of obsessive think-about-it-constantly interest! I should note I’m not advocating using interest terminology for crushes because a) it’s an autistic thing that is actually part of autism diagnosis and I’d be pretty annoyed seeing NTs using it and b) I don’t even consider my crushes to be autistic interests, just that there are similarities that may help autistic people who get the interests but don’t crush on people understand it.

        You are of course very right about sex being presented as the end goal. Or… hmm… I think often it may be dating that’s presented as the end goal, with sex as an “obvious” corollary? Like, the one time I’ve crushed on a guy I assumed I must want to date him (because obviously that was what crushes entailed) and therefore want to have sex with him (see above), both of which were very wrong and led to awfulness. (My crushes on women I didn’t register as such at all – yay heteronormativity, huh.)

  2. This is a fantastic post.

  3. Aren’t crushes defined as largely romantic in nature, though? I mean, to me the stereotypical image of someone with a crush is a teenager sighing wistfully about someone they TOTALLY want to date and/or marry, not so much with the getting to sleep with them right this second thing.

    I don’t know, because I’m still trying to figure out if I experience anything even close to crushes (or the non-romantic equivalent) at all. I don’t think I do–I do get something akin to new-relationship energy, when I do get to make friends with someone and really like to spend time with them. And I experience hero-worship to an extent, but nothing like as obsessive as I get on other questions. But, for instance, fixating on someone I’m not friends with, and that I don’t know? To the point of being uncomfortable around them because of the fixation, or being consumed by the crush to the point of overlooking negative qualities about them? Totally foreign to me, and yet those are often described as common qualities in crushes.

    • Yeah, I agree that crushes are often an example of purely romantic attraction. But sexual feelings are presumed to get mixed up in that.

      I think everyone probably experiences everything in different ways, but in as much as we could agree that there could ever be a definition for a word to do with an emotional state, I think you’re right in saying that crushes are about fixation and obsession.

  4. I love this! And I think it puts great perspective on a very personal experience. I could totally relate to the dead-end thought process of “Wow, I wanna throw them onto my bed and…” often followed by “…wait, no I don’t…. maybe we could get coffee or play video games…” . I distinctly remember being about 13 and sitting in my bedroom with a female friend watching a Savage Garden music video and both of us were sighing over it and we had both agreed that we must have crushes on Darren Hayes and suddenly she popped out with “Oh man, I want to have his babies! I totally want to do Darren Hayes” … much to my surprise since I told her I wanted to do nothing of the sort and she said that I’d said I had a crush on him and that’s what it means to have a crush! That continued to be confusing for me for a very long time…

    Now I think of having a crush as having an interest in doing something with a person that is more intimate than what I would normally be interested in doing with most people that you know on the same level as that person. Does that make sense? For me that might manifest as being interested in letting someone tie me up and beat me, or letting someone play with my hair or touch my face etc. All those things are things that I enjoy doing with people that I’m very close to and that I have a lot of trust in. I still think of all those activities as being part of my sexuality, so I think of crushes as something related to sexuality, but obviously not necessarily to sex.

    Anyway, I loved this post, it really has me thinking about something I haven’t thought about in a long time! Thanks!

    • I kinda get what you mean. I tend to work on the basis of that ‘a little bit extra’ intimacy model to help me work out which relationships I might start to think of as non-traditional, queerplatonic relationships.

      But, personally, I feel a crush not as an kind of goal, but just as a feeling. I’d describe it as a sort of “I want to KNOW you. BIBLICALLY. Oh wait…” feeling?

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