Category Archives: What others say
Two idle trains of thought collided in my head. One was that I usually refer to myself as demisexual with “insiders” (the asexual community and close family) and asexual with “outsiders” (everybody else). The other, well, my language studies included a lot of crossdisciplinary training. We wallowed around in anthropology long enough to internalise several core concepts, such as etic and emic. Etic labels are imposed on a community by an outside observer. Emic categories are what a community develops internally.
Awsum Can Haz Werdzª
It’s no secret that the asexual community spent a lot of its early years generating words. These primarily helped people identify themselves and talk about themselves amongst each other. Here’s a glossary on the Asexuality Archive and the “Everything Asexual and Aromantic” series if you prefer to watch a video.
With the versatility of the English language, these words quickly became versatile, gaining colloquial versions, used as adjectives (ace person) as well as nouns (all the aces)… Several have become mainstream enough that they have been put into or expanded upon in dictionaries, such as the OED last month.
Ace or Queer Sociolect
All this leads me to consider… Is our language distinctive enough to consider ourselves, as a subculture, a speech community? Do we have enough a unique enough vocabulary and set of syntactic oddities to be a sociolect?
Another possibility came up when I did a little bit of digging. Apparently there was a queer sociolect in the sixties and seventies, called Polari. One paragraph this blog article caught my eye:
“Even though a secondary language was needed to support it, if well informed, a person could communicate heavily in Polari. However, its use in more modern times is questionable. Why? The language code would work in binaries (male/female, homosexual/heterosexual, masculine/feminine) and didn’t allow for description of non-binary classifications. For example, words to explain gender fluidity, bisexuality, asexuality etc., just didn’t exist.”
So another possibility is that now, four decades later, we filled a so-far-empty niche in a broader queer sociolect, and contributed a couple words to mainstream English in the process.
I am not at all qualified enough to offer any conclusions on this subject. As language geek and demi/ace person I did want to put the question out there, however. It creates a space to describe how I identify myself.
I, Ace or Demi person
Let’s say the asexual community is a speech community, or part of one. Let’s say the vocabulary we’ve generated has become an ace sociolect or part of a queer sociolect. In that context I am able to express two distinct levels on which I speak of my identity.
Namely, as an informed insider trying to decribe myself towards outside observers, I say I am asexual. This fits in a larger (etic) set of labels, known as sexual orientation, that is familiar to most English speakers. I only need to define the single new word in order for them to fit me into their world view, and then get accepted or rejected.
Among insiders, the asexual community and its allies, such as my close family, I choose a different label. I say that my asexual identity is primarily demisexual. I can add a gender identity and romantic orientation to further specify what I think I am. Thus making use of a far more nuanced set of labels we created to talk amongst ourselves.
Thus some old theory I learned in college and my thoughts on ace identity intersected. I thought in sharing it might be of some use. And, well, it just tickles my fancy how much we’ve been able to affect language, over the years.
ªprovided by the Lolcat Translator
The theme for July’s Carnival of Aces is Then and Now. Let’s compare the summers of 2015 and 2018.
I am still reeling from the shift, going from identifying as a heterosexual barred from falling in love by her insecurity to a more confident woman still seldom feeling sexual desire… demisexual. The inciting incident for this personal journey was a little over a year ago. I have lurked in the AVEN forums and set up a blog on WordPress, liking the long-form writing. I work through the questions my new identity throws up by writing and reading about them.
A city trip to Amsterdam coincides with Pride, at the start of August. With a thrill, I decide to go, wishing to be amongst other people who have a different orientation. Each museum advertises exhibits, the entire city centre sports flags for my entire stay. The place is proud of its pride and glad for its popularity. With a museumcard I happily browse through galleries and follow a tour guide through a zoo while he explains about homosexual animals.
On the day of the parade, I take out the eye pencils I bought, black, silver, white and purple, and draw flags on my hands. I walk until I hit the main canals, where crowds cluster, wreathed in colourful clothes and cheery music. I run into an aging lesbian I met earlier that week, who thought I was questioning-and-in-denial when I tried to explain asexuality – a practice run, with a stranger in a strange city, before I dare to tell family. We end up talking about how she claimed long-term relationships among lesbians often enough become queer-platonic relationships when they enter their second or third decade. We stay together that day to have someone to share comments with while we watch the floats and boats go by.
I feel a little lost, I am the only one like myself. Still, the day becomes a precious memory. Even in this time and place where there is no fight for rights, the people come to be uniquely blessed. Each time I see people together, I realise they could be friends or family or strangers or lovers, in any combination. This one day a year, anyone could be any sexuality and not be outnumbered. Too, I realise as I look better and see they can be any gender and have a good chance of meeting more people like themselves. It’s a one-day vacation from heteronormativity, from gender roles. It releases something in me.
I leave early, because there isn’t a party for people like me and I don’t much feel like beer or celebrating my sexuality. Still, I smile at all the families who start to leave along with me. They came here to teach their kids this, I realise, a broadening of horizons. Not a bad day out, either, with the festival foods and mellow atmosphere and colourful boats and people and places. Loads more fun than a documentary at school or a representative of the COC (LGBT centre) coming to talk. I find myself hoping they tell all their classmates.
The next day, my last day, I decide I want a souvenir, a symbol of when I went out to celebrate my orientation, even just to myself. I buy a ring with a black band in the middle and put it on my right middle finger. There, I decide, I’m out. A little more sure of myself I go home. I sit my family down, one by one, to come out to them.
After a hiatus, I’ve been blogging again for a while. I have moved and joined a more conservative church, since my own denomination wasn’t around. It caused a whole host of insecurities and fears to upend itself over my head, even though I thought I’d reconciled my faith and my demisexuality. Seems I absorbed some of the poison out in the public domain just fine, even if I was accepted in my personal circle.
I have had an asexual orientation long enough that I am starting to lose the sense of what it was like to think myself heterosexual. One warm night, staying with family, I walk to the bathroom half-asleep in only a shirt and startle at an outrage squawk from my brother. It takes me minutes to realise what the problem is. My body has simply become my body, comfortable and only covered for my comfort. No longer a source of questioning what might make it seem sexy, or shame for what others might see in it.
I am finally confident enough to take the step deliberately into the dating world, though it’s still a slow shuffle as if across an iced-over road. I start to accept that lacking the wish to have sex does not mean I have give up what I do wish to have, most especially kids, far more even than a partner. Not yet, I decide, but I jot down what would be practical to know or prepare in advance and start to research at what point down the line it would be possible, responsible, good. I consider whether to adopt or to carry my own.
I speak in gender-neutral terms of a potential partner. While I am romantic, wish to be romantic, I don’t really know towards whom. I realise I find people striking on first impression, or their minds intriguing to explore further. By these two methods do I identify people to like, people to love. It is by convention that I determine which way it is appropriate to build a relationship with someone, with friendship an easier path and the romantic scarcely explored.
I mentally redefine demisexual when I read about the three instinctual drives: sexual, romantic, attachment. Demisexual: the sexual drive may trigger when attachment (trust, respect, familiarity, community, collaboration, cohabitation) is present.
The gradual paradigm shift has trickled into my writing, which I’ve picked up again. I cannot withhold my changed understanding of relationships, of love. Each story, by the time I’m writing character profiles, contains an asexual character or a relationship somewhere between frienship and romantic and sexual or someone who wishes never to have a relationship at all. Because these are the things I’ve been thinking about for years, to puzzle out. My mind is too full to avoid them.
I realise with dread I am on the point of another coming out. My friends, my family know I am demisexual. But I’ve been comfortable almost never talking about my orientation. People never really ask about the ring or the absence of a relationship. It feels a little naughty, to be differentunder people’s noses, most of them never realising.
However, if I wish to publish, if I produce something good enough, being asexual will not just be part of my personal identity, but part of my public identity. On Linked-in, on my bio, answering questions from strangers.
I remember that Pride. I remember that atmosphere, that all orientations and genders were accepted on that one day. I remember that people brought their kids from across the country. I remember feeling alone in having an asexual orientation, even as I felt affirmed in being not-heterosexual.
I want to write and these stories call to me. Working through the implications and insecurities of this identity has shaped my voice, because it’s taught me so much that’s worth telling.
So, a year from now, maybe two, maybe three, somewhere there’ll be another story with ace characters, by me. Not really because I’m brave or much of an activist, but because it will, hopefully, make for a good story.
Note: I can discern the gender of some, but not others. So you’re all neutral “they”, because the poor guy personifying politeness in my head is pacing in indecision and waving a book at me with “21st century etiquette” on the cover. If you wish this changed, leave a comment and I’ll edit.
Note 2: Thanks to conscientious commenters. List should now be complete and link correct.
Before I started reading all of the submissions I received for this month, I was bouncing around in glee because of the idea of a multitude of perspectives on something I wanted to really read more about. Now I’m just humbled by the different thoughts, great stories and awesome people I have been allowed to host in this month’s Carnival of Aces.
The theme was to write about the relationship between (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientations and the future, based on the oldest Dutch sentence in existence, “Hebban olla vogala nestas hagunnan hinase hic enda tu, wat unbidan we nu?” That was taken in a lot of different directions.
Controlled Abandon was first out of the gate with a post considering both a future alone or together with a partner equally, and sketching how both would ideally work out. Read what they wrote in their April 2018 Carnival of Aces post.
Lib considers with dry wit on A3 that they might be a migratory bird that takes a while to settle down in “My Unexpected Future“.
Blue Ice Tea on Ace Film Reviews shares a beautiful and hopeful story about finding a satisfying friendship in “Growing Up Platoniromantic: Happy Endings“.
Queenie of Aces writes in the Asexual Agenda about queer futurity (which is my new word for the day) and building a road for others where there isn’t yet one to walk on in “To build an unimaginable future“.
Between Worlds Unknown is the gorgeous name of Varian’s blog, whose accepting of their asexual orientation lead to other questions and realisations, read it in “Stepping Stones“.
An Ace from Appalachia had me groaning and then grinning in sympathy at the pressure they faced over their wedding. If you want to join me in the crowd that wants to take down the entire wedding industry and its PR, go read “My Story Of Failing At Doing The Straight Thing“.
In From Fandom to Family, Luvtheheaven speaks about coming of age with a lot of doubts and a shaky future and finding strength in picking their way through that. It convinced me that this slow-built nest will turn out very interesting in “I Can’t Just Let The Future Pass Me By“.
Sennkestra slides a post through the closing doors of April on Next Step: Cake in which they shed some light on the differences between general and specific life goals and how that can really change the answers. Go read “Milestones and Priorities“.
Laura, on their blog [Purr]ple [L]ace, reflects on their big masterplan to build a single-parent household and how not being single throws a wrench in that, and the bittersweetness that is adaptation in “Nesting and… Re-nesting?“.
Elizabeth in Prismatic Entanglements also discusses her less than usual path to a less than usual domestic situation and mixed bag of blessings, friction and thoughts that brings along with it in “Building a mosaic from a Shattered Future“.
And… I wrote “A [hu]man of good character“.
Now on, on to the next month:
- The Call for submissions for May (hosted by Prismatic Entanglements)
- All of the Carnival of Aces parades! (Asexual agenda)
- The March parade (luvtheheaven’s blog)
I was going to write “ man person”, but no strikethroughs in titles allowed on wordpress. So, scholarly brackets it is. I’ll worry about being inclusive to aliens when we meet some. This is my contribution for the April – Carnival of Aces.
My friend tells her unlikely love story, and concludes, “I had a list, so I knew who to date. He just fulfilled every item on it. I knew he was the one.”
“I… can’t even imagine.”
“What’s on your list?”
“I don’t have one. I suppose I’d like to just… see what develops when I meet someone.”
“No list? C’mon, what’s your type, what’d you put on there?”
I’m quiet for a few minutes. Her sharing at least obligates me to give it serious thought. “Really wouldn’t know what to put on it,” I admit in the end.
There’s a list in my head. It’s for me, not any partner:
- Be at peace with loneliness, so company is joy, not necessity
- Have a good circle of friends, then worry about romance
- Have a stable income, so you can support a household
- Meet in real life for dates, online contact hurts too much
“D’you want me to set you up?”
“Er… are they nice?”
“Yeah.” How else do I ever meet anyone?
A month later, I’ve still heard nothing.
What I want: a list of ways asexual people identify partners in life, so I can try things, and support from friends when I admit to seeking a partner.
What I have: a list of expectations people have for how a good, normal, healthy woman finds a partner, and all the ways they joke about helping, and won’t, because it’s too unusual.
“God, I hate being single.”
“We all deal with some level of loneliness, in or outside a relationship.” The later in the evening, the more philosophical, though not necessarily wiser, my brain.
“I guess, but, I’d really like some company, y’know?”
“Depends on the company,” I mutter.
I forget my own advice, gradually.
Out of my own fantasy, the things I did like about being in a relationship, pop culture and idle conversations I build a new, false image I wish to chase.
I start living in fantasy land.
It’s an excellent image to fall asleep with, but a bad thing to believe in the waking world.
“Well, it’s a blessing, really, for your life, if you don’t desire anyone.”
“So you can focus on other things. On God.”
“What do you mean?”
Well, like Paul said, if you lust after others, you must marry. If you don’t, you’re more blessed because you can focus on serving the Lord, like him. Feel happy.”
Even as someone who actually does ministry, this made me balk.
I feel this is going to become the asexual equivalent of the scenario where gay people are accenpted so long as they are celibate and “they focus on God’s love.”
Sex is for heterosexual people, right? Bleh.
Oh, I desire another. Just very, very rarely sexually.
I don’t know how, but I know I do.
“I can’t seem to actually start. I remain this… armchair philosopher.”
“Scared? Lazy? Ignorant?”
I tell her of all my insecurities.
“Stop thinking so far into the future. Meet people. Give them space to become your acquaintance or friend or significant other, whatever develops. All you can do is create the opportunities and invest the time to grow new relationships. The rest is not yours to control.
Okay, helpful list.
- Meet people
- Stop worrying
- Enjoy the meeting of minds
- Be conscious of but not stopped by my sexuality.
I am spending a lot of time with someone in a relationship that is… not going well. Mostly, I’m in charge of making sure she eats and has enough fun, someone else is playing the part of confidant.
They pose for a picture. “Wait. I need to unlock my phone for you. It’s secured with my thumbprint. No one else can access it.”
“Oh wow, that seems handy, in case it gets stolen.”
I get one of those glances, one of the heavy, unsmiling ones. “Yeah, well, I got tired of his spying, y’know? My messages are none of his business.”
He messages her daily. He reads her email. He upsets her, over and over.
Yet, she loves him, he loves her. They’re trying.
The realisation comes gradually that I have been idealising realtionships.
Living in fantasy land is safe and easy.
There are things, being single, that I’ve been taking for granted.
My own space, respected.
Being on an even keel with others.
I realise I do have a list.
List (to be specified):
- Adult of similar age
- High integrity
- Similar ideals
- Compatible life goals
- Equally affectionate
- Does not discriminate
- Comfortable with who I am
Seeking: a person of good character.
I live in a progressive society.
I am ‘not sexually active’, rather than a virgin (maagd).
Virgin and maiden and damsel (in distress) are the same word in Dutch.
Everyone is the hero of their own narrative.
I was a child in the nineties.
We were never told we should be the damsel.
Thus, it remained a word for other people.
…Born from the Virgin Mary… (geboren uit de maagd Maria)
Except that was not the Mary I liked or pictured.
My Mary was the respected wife of a middle-class carpenter with half a dozen children, who had been exiled to Egypt and returned to Israel only to move to a completely different town and build a new life there succesful enough to afford a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the only woman on the planet to have raised God the Son with reasonable succes and saw him go off to do inexplicable things and then had to bury her eldest child.
The woman who went and asked that same Jesus for a miracle because her friends’ wedding was about to go off the rails.
The Virgin was a blue and white robed statue in old chapels.
Thus, it remained a word for other believers.
I was never asked if I was a virgin.
Society never impressed this word on me, but went out of its way to reject it as oldfashioned.
I was always asked if I was sexually active.
So, I was ‘not sexually active’.
Thus it remained a label for other cultures.
I never needed the word to describe or defend the fact I did not have sex.
It was rather taboo to ask if someone had ever had sex.
If you had it, presumably you boasted.
If you did not speak of it, it was assumed you simply did not have it recently.
I moved too much so I did not grow up in one place.
I did not have a family that considered my sexual activity its businesss.
I had no people come on to me uninvited or presuming they could have sex.
Thus, it remained a line of defense for other people.
I did have talks with friends, of course I did.
It is really easy to turn the conversation to other aspects of a relationships.
People really love to talk about their own experiences, if they talk about it at all.
I also had kind enough friends that they simply respected my being single as a choice.
When I had a relationship, it felt so utterly personal, tender, vulnerable, I was circumspect.
In talking to my partner, the past seemed so much less relevant to discuss than us, now, until it didn’t exist anymore.
Thus, it remained a discussion I never had.
Every single doctor I have ever had.
Are you sexually active.
I get, perhaps, a look.
Thus, it remained a question I was never asked.
The only time the issue of virginity was raised, was in a religious context.
It came dripping with bad and worse associations. Submission. Purity culture. Patriarchy.
I felt revolted at the mere idea of identifying with it.
I like having my judgment respected when it comes to my sexual activities.
I like having the freedom to discuss what I did and did not do without immediate censure.
I like having no law or rule dictate or limit my activities so long as I do not harm or harrass anyone.
I like the sense of safety and respect and responsibility that awards.
I like the idea that I answer to God, and God alone, when it comes to whatever consensual sexual activity I engage in.
The idea that I make choices to follow what I believe is right freely, in my own time and without outside pressure.
I like it a lot.
I like sexual freedom.
Thus, it remained a discussion I tried to avoid.
I am not a virgin.
I have never had occasion to identify with the word.
I have never much discussed it and when I did, disliked it.
I do not apply this label to myself.
Ironically, people will apply the label if I am ever very clear about the limits to which I have been sexually active.
I cannot even make sense of where that line is drawn.
Is there one?
I do not wish to be a virgin, with all that that entails.
I am simply ‘not sexually active’.
Lady bits will be discussed in this post.
I live in a progressive society.
I am ‘not sexually active’, rather than a virgin (maagd).
There are reasons for this. I want to illustrate that.
It’s always felt so… natural (vanzelfsprekend).
With great glee, teen magazines and sexual education revelled in one fact when I grew up.
Only one percent of girls would have their hymen intact and bleed when they had sex.
Hymen. In Dutch, literally virgin seal (maagdenvlies).
The accuracy of the statistic wasn’t important.
Its repetition was.
Scientific fact or fiction as a mantra, a talisman.
Your hymen will 99% likely not be intact.
It meant, do not fear sex.
It meant, it won’t hurt, try it.
It meant, you are safe, don’t worry.
It meant, there is no magic.
It meant, there is no unforgivable sin.
It meant, you will still be the same person.
There is no magic.
Your body cannot be a sacrifice.
Your blood does not have special powers.
You will not be targeted by evil sorcerers or monsters or bogeymen.
There is no unforgivable sin.
You are not more virtuous for having had less or more sex.
You are not more holy before you have sex.
You do not have to be an angel.
You will not be a slut.
You do not need to be ‘kept safe’ for your own good.
You are safe, do not worry.
You are not in danger because you are innocent or beautiful.
Others’ lust is not on you.
Sexual harrassment is a crime.
We make laws, we bring justice.
If you are in danger, we are on your side.
We will teach you how to speak up.
We will teach you how to fight.
We will teach you how to be prudent.
We will teach you how to wield our laws.
Do not fear sex.
You will still be the same person.
Your body is yours to do with as you please.
We have enshrined this in the declaration of human rights.
We are dedicated to bringing this freedom to everyone around the world.
This freedom is your inalienable right.
Try it, it won’t hurt.
Here comes the sticking point.
What if I don’t want to try sex?
Then I don’t, I suppose.
They said, your hymen will likely not be intact.
You may not have a detectable hymen in the first place.
It may break when you ride a bike or a horse.
It may break when you insert a tampon, fingers or a device.
It may break with rigorous physical activity.
They said, be careful with the vagina, that may be narrow.
The vagina may be narrow.
I have discovered the truth of this last part.
It is a flexible channel with muscles around it.
Go figure what inactivity does.
The Dutch ride bikes regularly from age four.
I have always wondered if other nations had a higher percentage of intact hymen.
I preferred tampons.
We swim a lot, in Holland.
Hobby, outing with friends, day out in summer, exotic vacation.
Imagine having a 25% chance of not being able to do that.
It’s hard to bend over and see, easier to touch lady parts.
We were informed it’s good to clean and be familiar with those lady parts.
We were told about a terrifying host of things that can be wrong .
Mostly, I remembered it was good to inform a doctor if anything seemed off.
That means knowing how my genitals looks when they’re alright.
Relevant: stimulating devices.
I explored enough to know parts were functional.
I found that it worked differently for me, however.
It took me a while to figure out, hey, other sexuality.
Upon the stage of public opinion, the Dutch don’t really have conservative evangelicals.
We have conservative Muslims.
They are not considered white, so they are ridiculed more openly.
Thus, Christian girls worry a lot less about being a virgin, at least in a clear physical sense.
Muslim girls, well-informed, do worry about not being virgin in any discernable physical way.
I have overheard several serious discussions of the wonders of goat’s blood packets in the marriage bed while on the train, over the years.
An intact hymen is for other cultures and other times.
Physical inspection was for horrible quack-doctors among Victorians.
Physical mutilation is for horrible witch-doctors on other continents.
Here, just sign a petition, send a card.
Except, not really.
I read about sexual education going out the window.
I read about girls not knowing about or being scared of their own genitals.
I read about women feeling scared about not having an intact hymen.
I read about people getting sick, of STDs spreading again.
I speak to fellow Christians honestly believing this is all a good development.
I am speechless.
Your hymen is likely not intact.
It’s just a little fold of tissue.
I find I am holding a talisman.
Image and official rules over on The Global Aussie.
So, this is taken me two weeks, but I loved the idea of this 🙂
Thanks to janitorqueer for tagging me into the Liebster Award.
Rules of the game, in the tag-post:
1. Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you and display the award logo.
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
3. Nominate bloggers who you think are deserving of the award but also help promote newer bloggers with less followers.
4. Tell the bloggers you nominated them, in a comment on their blog.
5. Give them 11 questions of your own.
The first few questions…
- What inspires you most when writing/blogging? A creative outlet for demisexuality and all it brought with it, especially at the start, with the two-fold goal of finding a sense of community and hopefully providing some informative posts for people similarly redefining their identities and lives.
- Are you religious? Yes… and Christianity is definitely significant in my writing, I think most of all because faith and sexuality both feel like fundamental parts of my self.
- Did you enjoy your education? (high school, university, etc.) Yes and no. I love learning stuff, but secondary school was a gauntlet due to a lot of uncertainties. University I adored because I studied something I loved. Graduate studies was a whole other ball-game again, that… no.
- What is your dream job? private tutoring in what I studied, with someone else doing the admin and client acquisition.
- Boxers or briefs? yeah… on that subject I mostly appreciate it that my roommates have different preferences when it’s my turn to do laundry. Easier to tell apart.
- What important values do you live by? Love others as you love yourself… and that can be split up into
- a) Each person should know they are invaluable;
- b) I am fascinated with every interesting mind I encounter;
- c) It is essential that everyone recognise that everyone else is incalculably precious and not to be wasted, and that this is embedded in everything from international law to household rules;
- d) Everyone has agency, needs and unique talents and worldview, so satisfaction of basic needs, freedom of choice, freedom of information, accountability, equality and a healthy support network are essential for each human being to function.
…since that leaves me with five questions, here goes, pulled from other sources.
- What would people be surprised to know about you? I was a scout and know three ways to build a camp fire.
- What is your greatest joy in life? Succesfully getting an idea I’m very enthusiastic about from inception to final execution. There is no bigger high.
- What is the favourite country you’ve visited? Ireland. It managed to combine an idyllic countryside with an inexhaustible source of culture and some of the best music and loveliest accents I’ve had the pleasure to hear.
- Craziest idea you ever got in the shower? Top five non-humanoid aliens I’d want to meet. Especially the part where I was speculating on safe methods of preserving my body while communing with noncorporeal entities consisting of thought.
- One sentence that sums up your 2017. The advance of human commodification is horrifying, enraging and inspiring (to write about).
Questions for the tagged ones:
- What was the catalyst for you to start blogging, and what keeps you writing now?
- What do you consider the best part of yourself?
- What stranger, friend or family has continued to be an example throughout your life (describe what they mean to you, if you want to keep it general)?
- What is the most important choice you ever made, to you personally?
- If you had to describe yourself in a movie tagline, e.g. the callous reporter or the down-to-earth jazz musician or the calm old soul, what phrase would you use?
- Congratulations, you are now the President of the United States. What’s your first executive order?
- Earth has been destroyed and you flee the planet. Describe the space ship you’re on.
- What is your favourite superpower?
- What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
- You get one freebie to smack a person in the face without consequences. Who will it be?
- What polysyllabic (big-ass) word has become a common word in your vocabulary?
Tagged ones (which are just plain good blogs, and didn’t already get tagged, go read):
P.S. “Liebster” is something like “sweetie” in German, and River Song was one of my favourite characters. So, that.
The starting point: a TED talk by Helen Fisher on romantic love that is part of my reading up on sexuality.
I perk up five minutes in.
“I began to realize that romantic love is not an emotion. In fact, I had always thought it was a series of emotions, from very high to very low. But actually, it’s a drive.” (5:27)
My notes, based on what she says –
Three drives – three parts of the process
- Sex drive – to notice – select people to have a relationship with from a crowd
- Romantic drive – to focus – exaggerated attention, behaviour and emotion towards a specific person
- Attachment drive – to remain – a stable bundle of affection, attraction and behaviour towards a person to whom one has committed.
(May trigger in any order – important later)
I hesitate, then make a second list.
- If sex drive not(/rarely) triggered – asexual? – alternative selection process?
- If romantic drive not triggered – aromantic? – alternative method for focusing on specific person(s)?
- Attachment drive – independent from either
In the first flush of ideas of what it could potentially mean, the sweeping click-click-click of possible patterns, I dream big. Research statements for bold, new discoveries.
Attachment drive independent becomes –
The potential succes of relationships that asexual and aromantic people start is entirely independent from their romantic or sexual orientation.
Sex drive / romantic drive not triggered becomes –
Asexual or aromantic people formulate alternative methods to select and court potential partners from (zed/allo)sexual or -romantic people.
Alternative methods perhaps implies –
Asexual or aromantic people use methods to select and focus on partners similar to those they use to select and notice people to form other sorts of relationships with.
As I am writing reality trickles back in.
2018, not 1998.
Not Terra Incognita. Just new to me.
I sigh and go to add questions to my subjects-to-read-up-on list.
Demisexuality means this: sex drive may trigger simultaneously with or after attachment has formed.
This is why I may be dismissed: these drives do not necessarily trigger in order for anyone.
Attachment may come before sexual attraction for anyone. Romantic feelings may come before sexual attraction.
Asexuality: sex drive exists, but is irrelevant.
This is why I dislike being dismissed: I have been sexually attracted, in passing, to only half a dozen people in my lifetime. Other feelings, however, I have felt far more often.
Alternative methods are developed.
If one chooses to try for a relationship. If. Or it happens accidentally.
I am amatonormative, (and heteronormative?).
Aware, but still stuck with these trappings.
Progress. Not answers, but some questions to ask.
- How do I select anyone I wish to know better from among strangers?
- How, from that point, do they become friends or a potential partner?
- What makes that difference for me?
- How do I become territorial or obsessive over people for a time?
- What emotions/attractions/behaviour/thoughts overflow if one person preoccupies me?
- What does attachment look like for me (if I have enough data to say)?
- What are my alternative methods?
- What are others’ alternative methods?
- Do we see a difference in our brain, do we have something that lights up instead of the regular instincts?
I begin and discard several blog entries entitled The Three Drives.
I know too little yet, about brains, about sexuality in brains.
What questions do I elect to answer first?
Also progress, no need to go back and edit impersonal “we” and “you” back into “I”.
I think, therefore I am.
Demisexual. Questioning. Discovering.
Delighting in it.
Discovering my demisexuality, how seldom I really look upon other people and find them attractive in the sexual sense, had a profound impact on my body image. It served as a crowbar that cracked open what I thought was “normal”. Most of this process I became aware of as it happened.
I’ve tried covering this subject a few years ago, but back then I was still in the middle of all this, so I hope this paints a more complete picture of what changed for me.
Step one: shaking off the sexy
If I don’t really think of others sexually, why should I think of myself this way? This sat on the back-burner in my mind while I grabbed clothes and wondered, is this too sexy? Do I even know what sexy is? Do I want to know?
No, I decided. I didn’t, because it really didn’t make me happy. It was just a source of uncertainty. I wanted to stop thinking of myself that way. Shed the gazes I imagined sliding over me. Stop speculating how I looked in others’ eyes. I wasn’t someone who got a kick out of that. I was someone who grew worried.
I talked with other women, sometimes friends, sometimes parents whose kids I served, when we’d had one of those sermons (especially after I’d moved. My new church was more conservative). In these conversations about being female and how that affected seeing one’s body, one subject kept returning. How watching your clothes and how they functioned as you moved through the day was a form of self-defense, both against sexual assault and possible disapproval. The shame that came with acting more indecently, like pain, served a purpose, was a warning signal. Wasn’t it?
No, I decided. It really wasn’t my problem what others thought of me, it was theirs. And in assuming others would disapprove of me, or assault me, I was doing them a disservice. A life’s worth of experience told me that guys are most likely to behave themselves if everyone (including them) think that they can and should. And, really… if I was unsafe, how I dressed or was regarded was probably irrelevant, compared to knowing how to throw a punch, act confident and have a working phone with me.
So, I contradicted those thoughts whenever they arose. Gradually, they stopped coming.
Step two: end of shame
As those thoughts disappeared, it had a large emotional impact. Those worries (Am I sexy? Am I decent? What do others think?) carried a heavy load of anxiety and shame with them. When they stopped, it took a load off my soul I hadn’t been aware of before then.
I am from Holland, where nudity is less taboo than most places. Still, it’s a pretty loaded thing, titilating, scary, even when everybody pretends they’re all fine with it. In other words, still sexually loaded.
Breaking the link between “sexual object” and “my body” made it a much more comfortable thing to inhabit, to regard. Even spots or a few more pounds or a week’s neglected shave carried far less weight, since my body didn’t need to satisfy anyone but myself.
There were times, mostly in the second year after shifting from “heterosexual-by-default” to “demisexual”, when a feeling of euphoria would occasionally come over me simply because I was happy with my physical self. I laughed. I came bouncing down the stairs eager to greet the day dressed in flesh and bones that suited me well.
Step three: rational chastity
To be chaste, in the original sense, is to act morally, with only an emphasis on sexuality, according to the culture or environment you inhabit. Which is very different from chaste in the colloquial sense. I’d always liked the original meaning.
When my sense of self started changing, I asked God what his will was. I asked that a lot, especially the first few years. There just isn’t any guide as to how asexuality or demisexuality should intersect with Christianity, so really the only thing to do is pray.
Here’s what I believe to be true, and feel free to disagree: that I stopped to think of myself as sexual object was a blessing. Losing the guilt and shame over my body was nothing less than God’s will. In this, my demisexuality served my spiritual growth. I lost self-consciousness and negative thoughts and emotions I never should have had in the first place, but were imposed by my culture. Both a sexualised wider Western culture and the must-hide-body-from-men Christian culture.
So then, what should guide me instead? In determining what to do with my physical self, to care for it, to clothe it, to move it. Again, I asked God. I believe the following to be the answer: I have a functional conscience and enough information to make good choices. By letting choice guide me, rather than anxiety or shame, acting chaste (appropriate in a given context) becomes an act of obedience to God. I am thus more able to love my (physical) self now.
If I then also believe that others will act decently, that is further obedience. Namely, in that way I love others. Or, if you will, I treat them as I would want to be treated.
Step four: appearance of joy
When I stopped regarding my body as sexual object, my relationship with each part of my personal routine and wardrobe changed as well. I’ve mentioned my clothes, but really it also included washing, skin products, hair, jewelry, general demeanour, how I moved, what I bought, physical activities, packing for trips, preparing for social occasions and even the spaces I inhabited and how I decorated those. Overall, I just felt much happier and more confident about all of them, which meant they cost less time (angsting) and became more varied (through experimentation).
Each old thing was a little new, because I revised what I thought of them. When everything stopped being even the slightest bit sexual or (in)decent, I had far more mental space to tag possessions as feminine or casual, practical or colourful, suiting certain moods or occasions as I liked them, not as I thought others would regard them. Oddly, since I felt more free to think of them as I liked, they also felt more like they were mine, closer to me, just as I was closer to my body. I believe I’m rather territorial, since that pleased me to no end.
I remain rather lazy with my appearance, but I feel pretty good about it, regardless of what I do with it on any given day.
Step five: satisfying senses
Since my relationship with my body and the world I experienced through it improved, I also started noticing just how much that world and that body affected me. This was part of my wider search of how to give my life meaning given my changed identity. I figured out I am a sensual person. In the relationship sense, in that I feel the desire to connect to the people I like through touch and physical affection is a big part of relationships for me. But also in the me-on-my-own sense.
Buying cotton rather than synthetic textures for my clothes. Bringing a ceramic mug to American-style coffee stores so I don’t get a paper one. Cooking for texture as well as for taste.
I could go on, but, in the context of this whole re-defining my body image, it was a doubling down in my happiness with my physical self. By being more settled in my body I unlocked this source of pleasure.
Step six: heretical heteronormativity
The interaction between my faith and my sexual orientation reconciled them for me. This change in my body image and everything that followed was a large part of that.
It affected my opinion of how many Christians talk about sexual orientations. Initially, I thought of Christian communities as something of a refuge, where the pressure to look and act sexy was less, and lack of sexual activity was far more accepted. However, I came to feel as restricted within the Christian culture I inhabited as I did the wider secular culture, just… differently.
I’ve also felt very good with how my demisexuality enabled me to have a more positive body image and my faith was a help, not a hindrance, with that. It might sound odd, but I believe that such a change in identity is a potential source of spiritual growth to a Christian. Being other, it can be a start to rethinking so much. Living far more consciously, and far more true to the self. That can in turn deepen faith, if to live better equals to live more according to God’s will. If God is loving, and accepting and that acceptance is felt, after seriously questioning it.
In this, then, I find myself opposed to the dominant doctrine, which sees no problem in condemning people for their gender or sexuality, while others who commit what’s defined as serious sexual sins are invited back into community with gratuitous forgiveness. The first church I went to, I found myself accepted. In the current one, while it is very heteronormative, their commitment to “salvation is for everyone” gives… wiggle room, which I’m still negotiating. I’ve had several encounters where that heteronormativity crosses into hetero-exclusivity, organisations whose message could be summarised as “we welcome everyone as-is, but you’re not going to heaven unless you can be molded into an abstinence-only monogamous acting-as-heterosexual person.”
This, to me, is the line where that heteronormativity crosses into heresy. The absolute basic message of Christian faith is that everyone was created by God in love and has a full right to that, as they are. So, I find a community I’ve belonged to all my life hurtling in completely the opposite direction to what I believe. And, in having another sexual orientation, I also find myself belonging to the “them” potentially condemned.
Step seven: know thyself
I am Christian. I am demisexual.
I feel good about my body. My body feels good in the world. I feel better about my body in relation to others. I have learned to love myself and others and the world around me more. I believe this to be a blessing from God. Having a different sexual orientation has been good for my faith. I still feel I belong to the Christian community, but I finally have some understanding with how it also alienates those that I feel kinship with because I no longer identify as heterosexual.
Thanks for reading, if you’ve gotten this far in this very long post. Be aware this is the reconstruction of a personal journey that is, by its very nature, subjective. If your experience is different, I would love to hear about it. If this in any way helped you in some way by reading it, I’d also love to hear from you.
God bless you and have a fantastic life.
I told her I was asexual on the getting-to-know-my-patient form.
(Use language they might know.)
It was a test. She passed.
Reward unlocked: basic trust.
She leans forward, in an overstuffed armchair.
I am twisting my fingers, seated on an overstuffed sofa.
“Do you feel like you’re denying yourself anything because of your sexuality?”
I do not feel any less than whole, but…
Non-default sexuality. Limited options.
(There are paths you cannot walk. Choices have consequences even if you’re free to make them.)
“Yes, I do.”
“What, then? What don’t you let yourself have?”
“I don’t know.”
Sex. Love. Relationship. Loneliness. Family. Future. Life. Community. Connection. Status.
I type in mental keywords until I see what’s labeled ‘denied’.
Relief, which ebbs when I realise most results are coloured with doubt (do I want this) and dread (where do I even start) and trepidation (must research alternatives).
“I figure it’ll just be, y’know, harder for me. Or different. Don’t really know how to fit things in my life that I want.”
“I’m not normal.”
“Don’t put yourself down, now.”
“Actually… I like being who I am, a little weird. What it means for my life, though, not a clue. Which kinda brings us back to the whole no-clue-having about my life in general that brought me here.”
What helped, before, upon discovery of my demisexuality, was others who struggled, or didn’t. Their stories.
…must research alternatives…
Find a Let’s Play for asexuality.
My identity: demisexual.
Widen the search parameters, lieutenant.
What I say in my head: not ‘impossible’ but ‘difficult’.
How much have I denied myself, thinking that?
How much, by leaving things undefined, unexplored, chaos.
By choosing nothing, what did I choose?
Lesson from a therapist: a good one will not just accept, but help.
Questioning sexuality included.
Reward unlocked: active trust.
In writing this, I have had to go back and change every ‘we’ and ‘you’ into ‘I’.
False sense of safety in generalities and impersonal language.
How much have I denied myself?
Must research alternatives.
I stick my tongue out at the advertising, after checking the isle is empty.
I buy chocolates.
Quest part the first: Count Your Blessings.
Reward unlocked: family hugs.
I debate whether to post this. Therapy is personal.
It is exactly the sort of story I’m seeking.
I trawl blogs.
I am not alone.
Still comforting, several years in.