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A privilege check: ‘Missing: Presumed Primary’

We interrupt the scheduled blogging to bring you a post entitled ‘Missing: Presumed Primary’. Regular readers will recognise the comforting themes of me being mopey about aromance, also, making up words. We at Asexual Curiosities are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

There’s a lot of very cool stuff going on in the blogosphere, about community and detoxing and the autistic spectrum. Right from when I first found Dreki’s post, I knew that there was something incredibly potent in the message, and I’m glad it’s gripped everyone else the same way.

However, every way I try to get involved, I experience massive privilege-crash, from my original post, as a sex-positive person not recognising how much sex-positivity hurts the exact group of people I’m meant to be caring about and a non-repulsed person who probaby tends to lean too much on the side of ‘would you mind hiding that bit of your identity that I don’t think anyone should see?’, to a neuro-typical person getting involved in the first non-101 nuanced autism-spectrum conversations we as a community have had, and feeling like I’m getting it wrong, to an essentially cis person trying to write a post about my trans ‘inspirations’ for questioning my gender without sounding like a massive jerk.

The annoying thing is that I now understand the theory of privilege in a much more practical way. Before, I had seen it cheifly as a tool to try and attatch judgement to human behaviour, which may or may not fit in with common sense. Now, I see it as a tool for allies, that allows you to, as I’m doing now, not say “But how can you disagree with me?! I’m a neutral observer!” and just say “Damn, this feeling that I’m not as neutral or respectful as I thought REALLY HURTS. Can’t come out to play today, guys. Am doing a privilege check.”

So for that reason, I’m going to share some brief thoughts about romantic attraction and how much I feel isolated by it (deja vous?). Also, this has completely nothing to do with the fact that I ran into my squish (Squish: An asexual term, kinda like a crush but non-sexual and often non-romantic) and his impossibly cute boyfriend randomly the other day and they were all like *eskimo kiss* “Sweetie, why don’t you tell him that anecdote about this morning” “Oh, that was adorable. You’re so cute when you wake up” and I was all like “Hahahaha i want to die.”

Completely nothing. Definately the noble intentions, privilege-check thing.

So one of the (many) ways in which I’ve described the lack of sense which the romantic kiboodle makes to me is this idea that you pick someone, often almost at random, and then you presume that you’re each other’s primary relationship (Primary Relationship/Partner: A polyamorous term that basically means the same as ‘significant other’). If I could encapsulate my feelings on dating (note: it’s usually dating I get irrationally angry about, not romantic attraction in general), I’d like it to be a pithier version of “Dating is hoping you can lie to yourself long enough that the lie becomes true.” The lie being that this random person is the soulmate, the One.

But my ideas of the presumed primary phenomenon have been loosening recently. It’s likely I’m going through an aromantic version of that detoxing stage (detoxing: a still-contentious asexual term where asexuals go through strong negative emotions about sex when first finding the community), and “BUT NONE OF IT MAKES SENSE!!” is, through being able to talk and find people who empathise, becoming “Well, I want no part in it, but I have nothing against it.”

Firstly, I don’t now think that presumed primary is some antiquated law of monogamy that’s been retranslated and retranslated and never rethought since back when women were objects. Well, I do, but that’s not the point. I think the presumed primary rule actually has grounds in common sense. When you start having a relationship with someone that’s really exciting, people in general will monopolise that relationship, often over their previous but less committed relationships, something that I as the aromantic friend tend to be paranoid about. When that relationship involves emotional intimacy, the two people will very quickly find themselves knowing more about each other than their existing circles. When it involves sexual intimacy, there’s firstly a natural Pavlovian reaction to go back to them and get more, but there’s also a clear placing above the rest of their relationships because there’s only so many people you can have sexual relationships with at once, due to time and safety constraints. And then the final part of my important relationships triangle comes into play, and there will naturally be wild esculation of commitment. When you have someone who you’ve poured your heart and soul out to, who is also starting to know how to get you going in bed, essentially, a relationship that you prize as ‘special’, then it’s natural to put in concrete plans for seeing them more often, to pine when they’re away, and, once all that’s happened, to actually start living together, basing your life choices around each other, essentially becoming fully primary.

The thought-test I used to get to this point was this: Imagine that tomorrow, all the crap from romantic monogamy disappears- the idea of soulmates, compulsary monogamy, this binary between friendship and romance, the presumed primary rule. Everyone is suddenly single again and gets another chance, playing by the new rules.

Now come back in 50 years. What stuff did you kick away which stayed out? Unlearned, unneeded. Of that list, the idea of soulmates has disappeared completely. There is still exclusivity of various forms (and much richer and more useful forms), but compulsary monogamy is out. People are categorising their relationships, probably in a binary, but a much vaguer one. Meanwhile, I was surprised to discover that, in the hypothetical simulation in my head, the presumed primary rule is almost as strong as ever. A lot of the sting has been taken out of it because there is no longer a binary between relationship and friendship, so the things which used to be called friendships are seen as valid relationships which need maintainance.

But this whole thought experiment lead, as they inexorably do, to the big question: How do I, as an aromantic person, use this?
I think the key point is seperating the presumed primary rule from its couching in the relationship binary. When you succesfully manage to do that, what you end up with is NRE (New Relationship Energy: A polyamorous term meaning the flood of excitement one gets at the start of a new relationship) leading to a monopolising of time. Which is perfect for our evil plans of binary subversion!
Because NRE can totally be cultivated in friendships as well as romantic relationships. Unless I’ve misunderstood all sexuals, and only asexuals get the “Wheeeeee, an amazing new friend!” However, from how people have talked about their friends, I’m going to say that’s not true.
And I refer you to the story above, where NRE, through the magic of something that works exactly like presumed primary, leads to monopolisation of a relationship. Leads to a relationship fulfilling some or several vital needs, be they emotional or sexual intimacy, or others I’ve not thought of. And if you can hang on through that phase where you begin to see what needs each other can meet without it becoming a romantic relationship, you then reach the point where you have (fanfare): A highly significant but non-romantic relationship!!

Then, from significance comes commitment, and from commitment comes not dying alone and being eaten by your cats before anyone finds you (which I wish wasn’t implied to be part of the natural life-cycle of the aromantic).

I’m very excited now. If I wasn’t still snowed in, I’d rush out and find one of the 5 or so people with whom I’m sure I can kindle some NRE and try it out.

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On yadas and community

So I tend to get easily distracted by things. It shows on my blog, where I simply cannot put in the effort to be structured. I was mining this awesome vein on simple asexuality (as in, not being messed about by aromance and gender and queerness and demines and tricky things) and the structures we can put in to deepen asexual thought, and I had loads of plans, and then I got distracted by essays. And then I got distracted from essays by Yadas (for those who don’t know, the yadas are a group of originally non-binary trans asexuals who have formed a queer-ass e-gang). So it’s finally sunk in, and now I have two things I want to talk about. The next one is going to be more about my personal gender exploration, in relation to the gender exploration of everyone else I know. This one is, unfortunately, going to be difficult to appreciate fully if you don’t know about the yadas.

I want to talk about community. Because some of my greatest losses have been the deaths of communities. And the loss of relationships that could have been. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently looking at the good days, with friends, proto-friends, former friends, internet friends, meatspace friends, good friends, poor friends.
There’s something which hurts me just a little when I spend time with the Yadas, and that’s this sickening sense of de ja vous. Believe me, any Yadas reading, you are not the first (here comes the ‘back in my day’ story).
I remember the gang I used to hang out with on AVEN. Maybe a dozen regulars (I can remember about 6 of the usernames), and up to 30 familiar faces on the edges. We spent our time in Just For Fun, and started out just as posters who vaguely knew each other. Then came The Longest Thread on AVEN, and things- exploded. Almost literally. I think, at our strongest, we managed to get through about a hundred pages in a night. You know the chatterbox? That was made to try and contain me and my gang. We were despised! We were infamous!

And that’s the thing. I remember being the New Young Avenites. I remember our impenetrable in-jokes. I remember the way we all praised each other, and then copied each other’s praise into our signatures. I remember the thrill of making AVEN work for us, being radical. I remember hanging around the boards at midnight, taking over practically every thread as we greeted each other, and the forums rang with our delight. I remember laughing at the previous gang of New Young Avenites, as they disapproved of us, mostly just because we weren’t them and didn’t have the same jokes as them. I remember disapproving of the next gang of New Young Avenites, as they laughed our group into the fragmented darkness of the internet.

Boy, do the yadas remind me of me.

I wonder how much the name makes the community. ‘Our group’ seems to eventually get a name, and with that, it becomes something more. It’s happened with pretty much all my irl friendship groups, and the ones with a name seem to inherit a purpose. It seems to me that there’s a sharp difference- communities with names die, or are saved from dying. Communities without names just loose the potential to one day exist.
I’m vividly reminded of this by the fact that I’ve just been texted by one of my old best friends while writing. We had a gang of three, with a name. Within a gang of six, with a name. And each group had an identity. And each group isn’t going too well. And each group is starting to fight for it.

Some random thoughts. Don’t stop fighting, yadas. Really, don’t.

Operational definitions: Where things get technical

First- time for a short squeal of delight. A personal first: Someone I know mentioned the split between romantic and sexual attraction without being asexual or, to my knowledge, knowing an asexual. This made me fiercely happy. It also gave me the perfect conditions with which to bring up asexuality for the first time with my LGBT, but various people interrupted and the topic moved on to something different.

Anyway, I’ve been stumbling across a new way of defining myself for a while now, and I think I’ve finally got it sorted. It reconciles asexual and homosexual in a way that demihomosexual never did for me.
It’s based on the idea that sexuality has a number of ways of defining it, subtly different in ways that normally don’t matter. The three which I’m largely thinking of are:

The social constructionist:
Sexuality is defined by identity, feelings, belonging. It isn’t prescriptive or intuitive. Whatever labels fit, stick. It’s also very generic and vague, offering absolutely no definitions of what sexuality is, how important sexual attraction is, etc. In being open, it is blurred and unspecific. According to this definition, I’m asexual.
The asexual:
A definition of sexuality created by people who were told about sexual attraction in the assumption that they’d already know about it. A logical, thorough image of sexuality, like painstakingly painting around something invisible. Very much based on the word attraction. Compartmentalised, due to the difference in the romantic and sexual feelings of many of its creators. I’m guessing I’ll get a bit of flak for saying that asexuality doesn’t reflect reality, but my point is that nothing does. Not completely. I think the asexual theory is utterly awesome because it’s the only one that really looks deep into the complexities of what orientation means. Under the asexual definition, I’m homosexual.
The behaviouralist:
Defined entirely by how you act/want to act. A pretty sucky approximation for orientation, but it has in its favour the fact that it’s actually more important than orientation, in a real-world kinda way. In this sense, I think I’m bi.

The nice thing about this is that it gives me a reasonably succinct description of my sexuality that invites dialogue and hints at the complexities involved, while referencing all the identities that are important to me (my preferred label, my technical label, my behaviour). It’s way better than the “Don’t know, not sure how to say it” that I’ve been trying for recently, which is so difficult to make not sound defensive. Instead, I’ve got “depends on what definitions you use. From a general understanding, I’m asexual. From an asexual understanding, I’m homosexual. From a behavioural understanding, I’m bisexual.” Which is- well, it’s the most compact I’ve got it since I gave up being asexual, and it makes me feel so much happier than any partial label.

Get me off this tiger

I want out. Yeah, the hard way’s more rewarding if you survive it, but I really fucking want the easy way. Because we are the first, and we have no idea if that elusive milk-and-honey land that we’ve been telling each other about actually exists. Because we’re deluded fools on a ship bound to nowhere. Because I’ve been swimming against the tide for a few months now, and I’m starting to feel like I’m drowning. Because I can’t imagine how I could live my life like this.

And it’s true, only a few hours ago, I was feeling happier about this than I have done in weeks, talking to a friend who really genuinely gets where I’m coming from. And it’s true, I’m blaming aromanticism for completely other issues, screaming at myself that it’s my identity to blame rather than confronting what’s really going on. Yes, I have a crush that’s becoming unignorable. Yes, I have no idea how I’d ever translate that into any sort of mutually beneficial relationship without my aromanticism flaring up. Yes, it kills me to see him go home with another guy. But it’s more a standard story of unrequited love. If he really liked me, we could work something out. It’s the fact that he doesn’t like me (after, I should point out, spending almost no time with me socially) that makes all my old insecurities come screeching back with “YOU’RE DULL! YOU’LL NEVER BE AN INTERESTING PERSON!” Which, I should probably mention, is where a lot of my fears about aromanticism truly originate.

But sometimes you just need to rant, and lately, this blog has been nothing more than a place I can scream. And scream.

Construction will come tomorrow. And I mean actual construction, not this crappy, fake ‘blame it on the identity’ thing. I mean actually what’s bothering me, and why, and what I can do about it.

For now, just remember that feelings make you stronger. Remember that feeling you had as you were leaving and you shook your crush’s partner’s hand, staring into his face and wishing him a good night, smiling.

That’s a new one.

That super-random last post- Part II

So the last post- a lot of where it came from was what I’ve been thinking about aromance recently. Thinking about friendships and relationships, and how I can create relationships which work for me. How I create relationships is fundamentally an asexual issue, and that’s… odd, when you’ve just abandoned the only label you’ve ever felt comfortable in and now you have a suuddenly decreased quality of relationships.

I’m not going to talk about relationships today. Instead, I’m going to talk about creation. I want to create something. Something interpersonal. It was a goal of mine already to figure out how to do that, and now it’s a need. For want of better words, a party, but not a party as such, because a load of strangers and loud music is the opposite of what I want. A gathering. A meeting of minds. Mostly, I want to create a space. A space in which I can be myself and relax.

And, for me, it’s big stakes. It’s not just the people I chat to in lunch breaks, friends mean everything to me and they will always mean everything to me. There is nothing more out there.

On the doorstep

I have a small group of friends, back home, that I used to hang out with. One of the best moments I remember was when we first started meeting outside of school. We went to one girl’s house, and someone assumed that their mother wouldn’t let us in. So we hung around outside the door for a while. A while turned into a little longer, people who had been standing sat on the doorstep and the pavement and eventually, her mother opened the door and said we were welcome to come in. We never got round to getting up.
We sat outside as evening fell. We sat outside, a circle of pale faces, and talked and talked into the darkness.

We never made that mistake again. We went round to that girl’s house every week and watched youtube videos and films, until her mother became too passive-aggressive and we started going round to mine. Where we watched films. And youtube videos.

One of the group understood. We used to go for walks, and we’d sit on the grass and talk and talk. One day, it threatened to rain as we were leaving. We only grabbed one, large umbrella. We sat on a bench as it started to rain. We huddled under the one umbrella. We watched the drifts of rain, the banks of clouds, the foggy lights of the city beneath us. We talked. Every time we tried to get up, the rain got worse. We sat down, and continued our conversation, deeper and deeper. We agreed- we were glad we had only brought one umbrella. It forced us closer.
Hours later, the rain stopped. The familiar world had become different, breathtaking. A beautiful, shared experience.

Within the last year, I’ve fallen in with a crowd who, I’ve just realised, have spoiled me rotten. They have this unspoken habit of finding some quiet room or garden in which to lounge- going to some event and then almost deliberately avoiding the actual event, just hanging out with the same old people in strange new places, as dusk falls, transfigures. As the dark draws in.

As the dark draws closer.

I was thinking, before I went to uni, about how to capture these moments, make them happen more often. And here- well, I’m in the middle of a sudden neurotic episode caused by the combination of my periodic “Oh god, I’m aromantic. How can I have the relationships I want while people won’t commit to me because we’re ‘just friends’” and the new “oh god, I need to go out and make some friends, but I’m incredibly ill with freshers flu.”

And every single event on the freshers week programme was in a nightclub, apart from the mother and baby group.

And the girl who’s likely to be my best uni friend hates walking even five minutes, which caused some tension today when I just needed go get out and stretch my legs, because that’s practically how I emote (I even wear holes in my hallway carpet).

And I just feel so scared that I won’t find anyone who does this thing of collecting moments, moments of non-conformity, of the elements, of coming together through the weird places you find yourself and the wonderful people you find yourself with.

And I just want to be back on that doorstep, on the corner of the street next to mine, as the light fades.

Quick post-freshers week update

Hi, all. Little internet access, so this’ll be short.

Apparently, the uni LGBT is both vaguely transphobic and probably asexophobes, too. I’ve not had any first-hand experience of them because I accidentally fell in with a small and awesome splinter cell who are much more accepting.

Also, I’ve decided not to label myself as asexual anymore. This decision happened more than a month ago, but I somehow never got round to writing the long-winded explaination. Basically, if the label fits, it’ll come back to me. However, I’m still aromantic, I’m getting more and more sure of that. So:
-I still feel like part of the asexual community.
-I should still have a lot to write on here. Whether and when I do depends on how busy my life is.

My society went out to a trans resources centre, and they had forms which actually had an asexual option on them! I ticked them, partly because asexual is the option I most identified with, and partly because I didn’t get a single asexual tickbox when I actually was asexual, and I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity.

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