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On Barney Stinson

Major exams finished, and I promised myself I would write a happy-go-lucky post with lots of pictures of Neil Patrick Harris, claiming my vague theories about his character’s aromance (this won’t make much sense if you’ve not seen How I Met Your Mother)

Yesterday night, my housemate laughed and laughed as she read out sections of one of the books his character is meant to have published. With each quote, I fell quieter and quieter, trying to ignore it, hoping it would stop.

Today, when I finally got round to checking the blogs, I found that a man very like Barney Stinson, a man who Barney is a parody of, recently shot a woman in the face.

I’m all out of happy-go-lucky.

So Barney is aromantic.

I’ve been trying to supress my queerification of Barney, because I knew that the show is a parable of romantic privilege, held up as moral behaviour. I know that Barney is the freak in a group of decent people, decent people who do decent people things like moan constantly about the one, ditch their friends for the new strangers they’ve decided to pine after.

I know that I’m the freak in a group of decent people. And I always will be.

Barney’s relationship with Robin reminded me stiflingly of my own conceptions of what it would be like to date. At first, they resisted all roles, those of boyfriend and girlfriend, those of man and woman. With each other, they were freer than they were without each other. And he was so, achingly, happy. I’ve never seen him smile like that.

And then convention set in. Relationship convention, gender convention. They became trapped in what had been such a promising relationship. He became the most miserable I have seen him.

Barney’s book is a parody of pick-up artists, a group of people who started with evopsych and made it more mysogynist and less scientific. It is called the Bro Code. And no pick-up artist would ever write this. The first rule is Bros before Hos. The entire system is evident of that delusion Barney labours under- that he can say something and make it true. That he can have the power of words in a world which keeps him ignorant. And the code which he tries to lock everyone into is, dispite its overlay of mysogyny, is very basic. Underneath all the bluster, all the self-assurance, it is a simple cry for help- “don’t leave me”. “Don’t let this mean so much less to everyone around me than it does to me.”

Of the few episodes I can currently remember, one strikes me. The others are content to live in their romantic fabricated worlds, constructed by a constantly renewing act of denial. Barney realises that the group is drifting apart and his desperation, childish tantrums and attempts to communicate what he feels without the language to do so drive the episode. And, at the end, the voice of Ted, arch-romantic and Barney’s main ‘bro’, begins the closing narrative with “Of course, the group did drift apart…” I mean, it’s true to character- Ted is a jerk (not like I’m biased or anything). But that inevitability with which he cruelly dismisses Barney’s fears, marks them with that ‘not wanting what you’re supposed to want- not grown up enough- invalid’, the way he doesn’t consider how every single one of them has something to move onto, something to look forward to, except Barney, who has darkness and loneliness and a hunger with no name.

Somewhere in the world, a woman lies in a critical condition, having been shot in the face. Somewhere in the world, thousands of men consume the poison of the man who shot her. Somewhere in the world, right now, someone who thought they had something special but didn’t have the words, who needed that connection, is getting rejected in favour of that sick dream. They can’t even express their loneliness. Somewhere in the world, presumably, are the millions of people who find it funny. And the world is shit.

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Update: Aromantic sexuals- still evil

What’s this? An asexuality test? Now we can pinpoint with precise accuracy whether someone is a/romantic or a/sexual. Like, HALF the bandwidth of AVEN could be saved by this simple test! If only there weren’t these minor flaws in just a few of the questions:

1. Confuses sexual attraction and sexual activity.

2. Gives two options- finding sex a ‘biological necessity’ and ‘not caring’ about sex. Also, ‘liking to date’ and liking casual sex, and ‘not caring for a partner’ is kinda a restrictive spectrum. In fact, I’d personally agree with ALL FIVE of those things (admittedly, the first one only from a species-wide viewpoint). It makes ticking one box kinda hard…

3. How would you describe your libedo? Erm… irrelevant to my sexuality? We’ve kinda discussed this one. To death.

4. And this is where my WTFromance gets the better of me. I want EVERY SINGLE kind of relationship they propose. The rub being- I want them with different people, possibly at the same time. Because I’m fickle like that.

5. Do you think you are asexual?  Finally, the question is right! But every single answer is wrong:

‘Yes. I do not desire, want or care about sex’ -Not the definition of asexual

‘Maybe. I am a bit indifferent to sex, so it would be interesting to see the results’ -I’m not sure where to start with the wrongness of this one.

‘No. I am a sexual being.’ -A relatively trivial and arguable point, but I think that everyone with some sort of reproductive organs or piping is a sexual being. My definition of ‘sexual being’ is based in biology, not in sexuality. Of course, you can make a word have two meanings.

Ok, so badly written quiz, you say. Wait! There’s more! Here’s what I got:

Aromantic sexual

You are basically out to fulfil your sexual desires without buying into romance or love. On a purely honest level, you are admirable, but as an exemplar of social standards, you are dispicable.

Erm… thanks? This quiz just called me dispicable- I’m sure gonna give it a high rating. I mean, luckily, I wasn’t the only one it stereotyped. “American society is alien to you (asexual aromantics) and you are alien to it.” I mean, they’re TECHNICALLY correct- I’m not American, nor have I ever been to America, so, by the traditional meaning of ‘alien’ as ‘foreign person’, I am definately alien to America. God, this quiz is insightful. Or I could have been a Romanic Asexual!  Which means ‘of or relating to Rome or Latin’. So, you know- TOGA PARTY (do any of those people know how heavy togas are? They are definately not party gear, unless you have lots of chaise longues to be pinned to). Anyway, as well as all that lead poisoning, and the discomfort of living in a society that seems to socialise mostly through orgies, I would also ‘seek a prince or princess’, ‘suffer agonising loneliness’ and ‘be burned by my partner’s groinal needs’. No, serously.



Why am I spending all this time taking the piss out of a quiz which probably took 5 minutes and isn’t even spelt correctly? Well, I’m not gonna lie, it’s partly because when I took the quiz and got “Oh, hi! You’re dispicable! (dictionary definition: worthy of hatred and contempt)”, that really, really hurt. BUT! It’s also partly because very, very shortly after I took that quiz- this guy showed up.

It feels rather great to have someone else who has some stake in the label ‘sexual aromantic’ to be blogging. Because now I have someone to justify how dispicable I am. Because he has lots of awesome ideas about intimacy, and the way romantic monogamy as a culture creates and uses artificial intimacy scarcity. Let’s pull out some quotes from his two non-101 posts:

[On possible definitions of aromantic] saying that aromantics can form deep emotional connections, but they aren’t a “purposely initiated monogamous separation as found in romantic couples”. This definition seems little better, as it puts the essential difference in external, culturally defined relationship practices. This definition would include all polyamorous people in the definition of aromantic, which seems to miss the point….

…I think we’re onto something here. According to J, this natural high is much stronger with people she would consider herself romantically attracted to, doesn’t require touch but is amplified by it, doesn’t require symbolic gestures like flowers but is enhanced by them, and is not necessarily connected to sexuality, conversation, or “good company” (though it can and often should be combined with those things)….

…So here’s a preliminary definition, that I’d love to get some comments on:

“Aromantics are people who do not experience the feeling of romance. Romance is a natural high that occurs in the presence of certain people, without obvious connection to sexuality, ‘good company’, or emotional intimacy.”…

…Looking back at my life, a lot of the things I’ve done have been an attempt to squeeze a little more intimacy out of the world around me.

There is, however, a socially sanctioned way of getting more intimacy: a “relationship”. In a (sexual, romantic, monogamous) relationship, you have a lot more freedom and power to gain intimacy. You are supposed to be a scheduling priority, and you can expect a certain amount of regular alone-time. You have some say into where your partner lives, and if the relationship goes long-distance you’re assured of constant communication and visits as frequently as possible. You have both the time and societal permission to really let down your barriers and be emotionally vulnerable. All of this is wonderful. There’s a reason I don’t spend much time single…

…No one negotiates with their platonic best friend about how their relationship will progress… but why not? Platonic relationships can be just as meaningful as the best sexual/romantic relationship, why not give them the same time and energy and communication skills? Why do we assume we have to only be “partners” with people we’re attracted to? If we decouple intimacy, sex, and romance, then we have so many more ways we can make our relationships work for us. Why not have a straight guy and an asexual guy as primary partners, with the straight guy having sex with women on the side? Why not have a triad where only one of the relationships is sexual? If we break down the assumption that we have to sleep with people we’re intimate with, we can start to solve our intimacy problem.

I think the (whateverwe’regoingtocallourselves)romantic scene needs this. I suspect a lot of the exciting discourse around romance, intimacy, relationship models, is going to happen around Intimacy Cartography. I’m happy because I finally have a second go-to blog for this stuff, now Asexual Underground doesn’t update regularly. I’m also happy because a (possibly) aromantic sexual is contributing to society. Is honest and emotionally mature and non-deceitful. Is, essentially, not wearing an opera cape and a twirly moustache. On a purely social level, we’re dispicable. We’re worth hating. Which shows we’re onto something good…

Sexuals talking asexual

This is dealing with cast-off issues from my last-post. When I approached the last post, my head was a mess of all the different things I wanted to put into it, and there was some extremely heavy-handed cutting to get it brief enough to be informative. This post will hopefully be target-audience appropriate right from the beginning.

So this is largely about discussing asexuality in your LGBTQ, or maybe your sex-positive or feminist non-internet-based group.

Asexual canvassing:
There is one discussion that you are perfectly qualified to have without any asexuals present, and that is how much you’re going to publicise that you are asexual-friendly. Are you going to add an A? Or a Q? (I know the Q doesn’t seem like that much of a victory, but I’ve seen enough asexuals banned from LGBT spaces because their name wasn’t above the door. It sucks to know that you’re there at the whim of your hosts) Or chuck the alphabet soup altogether? Are you going to add asexuality and a brief definition to your promotional materials, let people know that your support networks extend to include asexual people? This is a conversation you can have without asexuals, because it might help you snare some. Then you can move on to the next two discussions:

Asexual resources:
Ok, so you have a feisty asexual or two who are willing to spread the message. You can now go one step up and, if the asexual doesn’t mind doing some of the legwork, provide asexual resources. These will largely be resources from asexual people to asexual people. The flaw being that you don’t know how many asexual people are actually going to find these resources, it’s likely to be negligible. But it’s good to have them. I’m thinking mostly in terms of asexual leaflets, asexual-specialised support workers, maybe the occasional asexual meetup if there’s enough interest. This is something you can’t really do properly if you don’t have any asexuals on your team. While an asexual can still benifit from a normal queer/sex-positive support group, it’s a lie to say that you have resources for them when none of you knows the more complicated aspects of asexuality.

Asexual theory:
I realised the difference between this and asexual resources when a friend asked if I wanted more on asexuality in our LGBTQ. I think they were thinking of asexual resources, and I was imagining an hour of discussion about asexuality being “Asexuality is [trot out definition].” “Okay”. *55 minutes of silence*.
Asexual theory (and again, this ball is completely in the court of any asexuals you have around) is basically resources from asexual people to sexual people, with a little more discussion. This is why it is possibly the best way (except maybe a bit of joint visibility) to bring up asexuality in your group discussions. As I said last post, it’s the stuff that comes after the AVEN front page that is actually interesting. The stuff on the front page provides five minutes of talk, and 4.30 minutes of that is the “Is asexuality valid?” question, which is a really good way to piss your asexuals off.
Not entirely thought this through yet, but it’s essentially ideas that other people would find useful or interesting:
-The y-axis on the Kinsey Scale
-How asexuals define orientation and attraction
-Romantic attraction, aesthetic attraction (leading into Rabger’s model)
-Non-binary intimacy, community-based intimacy
-Asexuality and the LGBTQ
-Challenges facing asexuality/asexuals

That’s six topics which could each promote a good amount of discussion. In their own way, they’re radical. I feel like they’re as close to the heart of asexuality as the AVEN definition. They also all link into one another in a coherent order, and would make a nice presentation which would spark some truly enjoyable discussion.

In conclusion, see how hard I, an asexual (shush, brain. Not now), who has spent about four years active in the asexual community and a year active blogging, struggle to sidestep the initial unhelpful and vexing questions and get into a conversation. That’s how much effort you have to go to if you want to get a decent conversation about asexuality going among people who don’t know about asexuality. I want you to look at yourself and figure out if you really have the expertise to pull this off.

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.

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.

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