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.