Saturday, February 28, 2009

Relationship 2.0

This is going to be about undesired sexual attention. In AVEN forums, I often see people complaining and freaking out about those sexuals who won’t leave them alone and just don’t get it. And what I hear in their frustration is asexuals wanting respect and wanting to be believed and acknowledged and seen for who they are, because there is (not surprisingly) probably still some insecurity and fear about asserting themselves as different, and the hope is that being believed and respected by other people would bring these asexuals the peace of mind and comfort in their own skin, that they need so much.

Fact is, if by a fluke of fate you find yourself asexual, it means you just set yourself up for MORE exploration of “relationship” rather than less. That’s right, you can’t sustainably use the “asexual” label as a way to avoid having to deal with people because you just can’t handle them. Because your label is going to be continually challenged and disbelieved and suspected. And unless you’re comfortable hiding out in your room forever playing video games and chatting online only with other people who are safe because they are “asexual”, you will have to continually question and carefully observe what is going on in the relationships that you enter into. One of the things that I liked most about AVEN when I first found it, is that you were being invited to not assume this as a monolithic identity, but rather to use the word to describe yourself for as long as it makes sense to.

So as with everything else, in order to assert yourself, it's best to come from a place where you are really, really comfortable with yourself. If you go out into the world saying to people "I've determined that I'm asexual and I never ever want to have sex ever, how gross" while you still have doubts and insecurities inside of yourself, and so you’re really invested in people believing your statement, because you think that will help you believe yourself – well you’re just not going to be convincing. People can always feel that you’re not sure of yourself, sometimes subconsciously, and they will respond to your insecurity with doubt and dismissal, sometimes also subconsciously (even if they verbally reassure you). So how do you become sure of yourself?

It’s paradoxical, but the more flexible you are and the more you allow for your identity to not be fixed, the more stable and unshakable you are. It’s scary because we are used to having firm and solid definitions of everything. And society’s rules are not made to accommodate a lot of “I don't know". Nevertheless. The ultimate tool you always have at your disposal is telling your own complete truth, and sometimes that truth is “I don’t know”, or “I don't relate to that question" or "I'm not sure what that word means" or "I don't remember ever feeling that way" or “I have mixed feelings about that”. Just be as truthful as you can – and speak from your own authority, from what you really, really know to be true for yourself. But the more you try to present yourself to people using external labels of identity, the easier it is for them to dispute that.

It’s like in literature, you have passive and active characterization. I can write a novel and say “John is outgoing, friendly and cooperative”, or I can narrate a story in which John does and says certain things that demonstrate his character. Which are you more likely to believe, the conclusions that I’ve made for you about John, or the conclusions that you’ve drawn yourself based on what you have seen about John?

I haven’t actually said to anyone “I’m asexual”. In some relationships, I’ve mentioned that asexuality is an orientation that I relate to and understand the most. Other times, that hasn’t even been necessary, I’ve just described how I feel about certain aspects of sexuality. And what I get back from friends is a lot of understanding and support and acceptance. I’m making sense to them, even if their experience is different.

Does everyone who is trying to romance you necessarily have to know that you identify as asexual? I don’t think so. There’s someone who is really, really in love with me right now, and since I’m living the crazy experiment of not knowing and not defining my relationships inside the friendship/romance dichotomy, so I’m living from a place where nothing HAS TO happen, I’m allowing myself to simply enjoy his company and enjoy as much physical affection from him as I like without having it have to mean anything. At the same time I’m also being super attentive to myself and clearly knowing what I do and don’t want, and communicating my boundaries. I’m allowing this powerful intense energy to flow towards me from him, while knowing where I stand, and allowing any response that arises in me, to happen. Even allowing for the possibility that if at any point the unlikely impulse comes to have sex with him, I will. Everything is so much easier when I no longer tell myself that I have to resist or fight anything, or on the other hand that I have to follow and fall in and reciprocate. Just doing what comes naturally. I’ve let go of a lot of guilt there. As long as I was telling myself that I should be a certain way, there was plenty of discomfort. Now I allow myself to feel anything that is felt in the moment, and it’s great to have that validation in real time from within my own body that no, I don’t actually want that.

You are strongest when you don’t have to convince anyone. When they tell you how much they want to be with you, can you, instead of wincing and trying to get away, just look them straight in the eye, feel what’s going on for you right then and there, and express it? I would personally find that much more believable than hearing “I’m asexual, leave me alone”. I think it’s a great challenge for asexuals to learn to absorb and deal with and become comfortable with direct sexual energy – and I see it as an inevitable part of maturation, to be willing to face that at some point. This guy who’s in love with me, I simply told him that I was very open to people, and that that didn’t mean I wanted a relationship - but that I knew this could be confusing. And he WAS confused, but he said that I was wonderfully strange. :) Well, I enjoy being strange. And if at any point he wants to ask more, I can explain more. But I don’t feel like I HAVE TO make him understand what I’m all about. And that’s freedom.


  1. I liked this post. It's in the line of "Show, Don't Tell" by Rainbow Amoeba. I think you both are right.

  2. Hiya! It's interesting, you need certain "skills" to be happily asexual...but the magical asexuality fairy doesn't just target people who have those skills already, it also targets inflexible people who hate talking about relationships and such (ooh, that sounds kind of like me ;-) But I'm glad I got targeted anyway, even though I wasn't really prepared. I don't go about things the same way you do, but it's always interesting to see different people's strategies for developing those "skills" that they need.

    I don't think I could identify direct sexual energy if it hit me over the head with a baseball bat, though.

  3. @Ily "I don't think I could identify direct sexual energy if it hit me over the head with a baseball bat"
    LOL! I know what you mean. I have always had trouble with that myself. Sometimes I would notice people staring at me intently and I kind of wondered if sex was on their mind, but then because I couldn't relate to it and it was just such a far-out idea for me, I usually would go "Nah!". But I'm learning. And now I'm no longer afraid to stare back! Asexual power :-) I'm also learning to develop a sensitivity, I think it has to do with galvanic skin response or something, because our bodies are electrically conductive, and there is a certain palpable electricity when someone who is sexually attracted to you, is very close to you. It's fun to experiment with. It's like color-blind people learn to be able to guess most of the time whether an object is red or green, based on other clues, even though they don't really see it in the same way.

  4. Oh, and often it helps to recognize it when they say they desperately want to make love to you! :-)

  5. Hello,

    I want to invite you to Sex 2.0. I think it would be wonderful to see the asexual movement represented. After all, in our talking about sex, people who don't want it need a place at the table too.

    "Sex 2.0 will focus on the intersection of social media, feminism, and sexuality. How is social media enabling people to learn, grow, and connect sexually? How is sexual expression tied to social activism? Does the concept of transparency online offer new opportunities or present new roadblocks — or both? These questions, and many more, will be addressed within a safe, welcoming, sex-positive space."

    If you think it looks interesting, spread the word around.

    I hope to see you there!

  6. Oh, and often it helps to recognize it when they say they desperately want to make love to you! :-)

    Ha...if anyone's ever felt that ways towards me, they've kept it quite to themselves! Which is fine by me :-)

  7. Thanks for the "Colour Blind" metaphor! It is so apt. Great post. The paradox of flexibility leading to stability- so true and well put! And I love your comment about not using "asexuality" as away to avoid interaction.

    I agree with the "show don't tell approach" but I have gotten into mucky situations, where I'm totally surprised that some one is in to me...i'm thinking in my head WTF? I never even so much as flirted with you/touched you/laughed at your stupid jokes...where is this coming from?!?! Thankfully I had a guy friend tell me, 'honey you have to be honest right away, shut them down, before it gets messy!'

    Because I identify as an asexual dyke, I have a bit of an easier time shutting down the guys because there's doubly no way in hell (yes I take the lazy way out and just say I'm gay-judge away). And thanks to sensitive honesty I've been able to keep a few of them as good friends. When it comes to women I describe the whole asexual thing (without using the clinical sounding 'asexual') and have so far had some really beautiful responses.

    With more visibility (thanks Trix for adding to the Urban Dictionary!) one day, we'll just be able to say 'you are really awesome but I'm Ace' and they'll respond, 'that's cool, if you're squishing on me like i'm crushing on you maybe we can play scrabble and then cuddle this weekend.'

    --Oops, did I just blog on your blog?! Raymo hasn't posted yet, and some one had to do it :)

  8. "If you're squishing on me like I'm crushing on you, maybe we can..." <<< That's beautiful! LOL Yes, I would like that kind of world.
    I am, incredibly, at the beginning of a third confusing relationship this year. This just happens to me, I don't actively go out looking for it. And I'm still vowing to just stay true to myself and not shoo him away. Because I do want physical affection. So just taking it one step at a time, being truthful along the way.