Spoilers for BBC Sherlock, mostly. This post will make no sense if you’ve not read up on at least a basic idea of what relationship anarchy is, and also know that my understanding of it is very basic. i.e., the philosophy that you should form relationships with individuals and only allow them to be shaped by what’s inside of that relationship, no outside boxes or limits or pre-defined trajectories.
I’ve been wanting but unable to write this (late) submission for the November edition of Carnival of Aces because it’s a lot harder to put emotional experience into words than it is theory. I also thought I needed to get out several other stories first.
Then I watched BBC Sherlock‘s “The Abominable Bride” with a rather relatable conversation(1), followed by a documentary on Spock on how characters resonate not because they are perfect, but because they are relatable, first of all. Of which, in this case, Sherlock is a very good example.
The conversation, held between a nineteenth-century Watson and Holmes on their knees at midnight staking out the gothic manor of their client, consists of Watson trying to ferret out Sherlock’s type of women and past sexual experiences, and Sherlock dismissing this out of hand and admitting he doesn’t have any such experiences, he chooses not to.
Thing is, this whole episode is set inside Sherlock’s mind. And I wondered, why have this conversation with the imaginary incarnation of his friend? Answer: because I do too. We have this conversation with ourselves, as well as out loud. We affirm what we are to ourselves, verbalise what we believe ourselves to be in the face of complete disbelief and incomprehension and ignorance.
That’s not to say Sherlock’s is or isn’t asexual, what’s important here is that Sherlock’s trying to express a fundamental part of his personal life to a good friend, who just cannot accept it, even inside Sherlock’s mind. And that, right there, is what I related to. What is, I hope, is the point I’ll make.
We are utterly alien to what most people believe sexuality is, should be. What most people feel. Whether we are gray, aro or any other variation of (or close to) asexual.
(We should not exist.
Yet. We do.)
The sexual revolution took our bodies and our sexual desires, and sought to ensure everybody owned theirs, that people didn’t have their rights and freedom taken away any longer.
Our rights, duties, freedom are still in question. Whether the desire for sex exists naturally in every rational body never has been in question. As soon as people were recognised as fully independent, sentient and equal (let’s not forget that part of the revolution), they were viewed as sexual beings.
(Until now, until us.)
Into this system of parameters, this post-sixties paradigm of sexuality, we are introducing zero. We are inserting so fundamental a concept, we need to reconstruct the complete logical framework of our philosophy. A big part of our community effort has been defining new words. Recognition of our asexuality is often followed by meditation on what that means for us, for our identities, for our relationships.
No wonder, then, that relationship anarchy, completely abandoning the old confinement of relationship definitions formed in a world in which we did not yet exist, as concepts, seems, well, logical.
If we are to make a brave new world in which we exist, recognised, accepted, should we not leave the old one? Shouldn’t we try to imagine? Like Star Trek imagined a multi-species crew in a time of racism? Shouldn’t we reject (delete) what our friends and family try to push onto us? Expectations that fit as ill as a childhood christmas sweater. Paths in life that we will not ever walk, and even if we set foot on them, it’s at a completely new angle.
However, we are not islands. We live in relationship to so many people. Even if, like Sherlock, we choose to have no sex or romance at all, we have friends and family. So we have conversations in our heads. We have conversations in our homes. We have conversations in cafes and at christmas dinner.
You may have noticed that I use my words (sexuality, desire, etc.) imprecisely. That’s because I’m not done verbalising what I am, what I want, exactly. I know it, but I cannot speak it (in woorden vatten), coin the right phrases.
My problem with anarchy in general is this: we make rules about everything, even if it’s arbitrary ones, just so that we can communicate what we’re doing. And also: I want creation after destruction. If we are to live in a brave, new world, I bloody well want the brave new world, not post-apocalyptic nonsense with every man for himself and that only working if everybody is as nice as Jesus (whether you believe him to be God or good, wise teacher).
My problem with relationship anarchy is this: broken down to my essentials I am a social, territorial creature who seeks community, seeks peers, seeks belonging. Seeks security. I must have some path to walk, some dream to envision. I cannot live for a future composed of a chaotic staticy fuzz, trusting blindly that it will resolve itself into some sort of picture eventually.
My problem without anarchy is this: I cannot keep living in the old paradigm. Living in an openly sexual society in which I, by necessity, must also, naturally have desires in that direction, that suits me ill. Would make my collection of desires (demisexuality) at best what it is now, a topic uninteresting, unexamined in social situations, a taboo that hangs over conversations when everybody else compares what they have or what they want and I dig into my piece of pie at birthdays or flee to the bathroom. Since I am more polite and less outspoken than Sherlock.
A few Sundays ago it was brought home very vividly that the church, as such, offers only temporary refuge as a place where I don’t need to be sexual. I’ve moved, and my current church is more conservative. Since I wanted to be active in ministry, I reached out two of the staff members, because I wanted to be clear on what I could and could not say on the subject of relationships, LGBT issues (since I veer off rather sharply from them there) and sexual morality. I had two lovely, understanding, sympathetic personal conversations about how everybody’s different and how enriching that is with them both, which satisfied me for the next several months. Then… well. The church does not preach any particular behaviour, but rather vocally supports a charity that brought this home…
The dominant Christian (Protestant? Conservative?) consensus about “chastity” (what is correct in regards to sex and decent public behaviour, more or less) is: “Preferably, have no sex before or outside of a heterosexual marriage, don’t even think about it”. Mine is: “Practice responsible and informed sexual behaviour according to your desires and ideals, the general cultural norm of decency and respect others’ human rights.” I cannot reconcile one with the other. Rather, they seem to be growing further apart as time goes on.
“Sexual purity” is the church’s security blanket against a society perceived to grow more sexual, entitled, degenerate and lawless. It’s a blanket that I fear will smother me if I do not step out from under it now.
So. I will be demisexual and Christian and at peace within myself but probably at odds with my brothers and sisters in faith at some point in the future, but that’s a post for another time.
My problem without relationship anarchy would be this: I will very rarely desire to seek out a relationship expected to include sex. I’m demisexual. If my experience holds true, I will be fleetingly sexually attracted to about half a dozen people in the next decade, and one, maybe two, more deeply. I feel sensual, emotional, romantic desire, yes, that well suit the intimacy of sex. Strictly sexual? Nothing. At all.
In the old world, I can only ever be a friend, a relation, an acquintance to people. I would fear to seek out a partner because it’d be unfair, because I might raise expectations I cannot (will not) fulfill.
(I am weird.)
(I shouldn’t be like this.)
(I am. Accept it. Move on.)
Yet, shedding preconceived notions, I gain so much. Because, you see, the repetoire for experiences to satisfy sensual or emotional or romantic desires is far, far wide than only those acts that would also satisfy sexual desire. A body thoroughly warmed and relaxed by the sun on a walk accompanied by a friend could already satisfy the first two, for an easy example.
Familiarity and trust are for me prerequisites to feel even an inkling of a full-on crush that isn’t platonic. By default, I will only grow a romantic relationship out of another, already existing relationship. The current split between platonic and sexual-romantic relationships is, to me, deeply unnatural. Runs counter to my nature.
Relationship anarchy is the only way I can have deeper relationships outside of my family. Accepting that the current system is useless is the only way not to panic. To accept I am not normal is the only way to discover what my norm is.
In other words, in convictions I run counter to my society. In my behaviour I am inoffensive, even rather… chaste.
Does relationship anarchy make sense, then, problematic as it is? Yes, yes it does, because of a humongous potential pay-off, relationships without limits to intimacy, to expression, to levels, to their growth. Wow, what a dream that is.
We’ve truly landed ourselves in a jungle, on a strange, new planet.
We have (given ourselves) such power.
Dif-tor heh smusma.
WATSON (equally precisely): Why do you need to be alone?
HOLMES: If you are referring to romantic entanglement, Watson – which I rather fear you are – as I have often explained before, all emotion is abhorrent to me. It is the grit in a sensitive instrument …
(Watson joins in with what he says next.)
HOLMES and WATSON (almost simultaneously): … the crack in the lens.
HOLMES: Well, there you are, you see? I’ve said it all before.
WATSON: No, I wrote all that. You’re quoting yourself from The Strand Magazine.
HOLMES: Well, exactly.
WATSON: No, those are my words, not yours! That is the version of you that I present to the public: the brain without a heart; the calculating machine. I write all of that, Holmes, and the readers lap it up, but I do not believe it.
HOLMES: Well, I’ve a good mind to write to your editor.
WATSON: You are a living, breathing man. You’ve lived a life; you have a past.
HOLMES: A what?!
WATSON: Well, you must have had …
HOLMES: Had what?
(Watson pauses a little awkwardly, then points at his friend.)
WATSON: You know.
HOLMES (angrily): Pass me your revolver. I have a sudden need to use it.
WATSON: Damn it, Holmes, you are flesh and blood. You have feelings. You have … you must have … impulses.
(Holmes closes his eyes in exasperation.)
HOLMES (through his teeth): Dear Lord. I have never been so impatient to be attacked by a murderous ghost.
WATSON: As your friend – as someone who … worries about you – what made you like this?
(Holmes has opened his eyes and looks at his friend almost sympathetically.)
HOLMES: Oh, Watson. Nothing made me.
(From somewhere to his left, scrabbling claws can be heard together with a sound of a dog whimpering anxiously, or as if it is in pain. Holmes turns his head in the direction of the sound.)
HOLMES: I made me.
Outtake from the script of “The Abominable Bride”, found here: http://arianedevere.livejournal.com/81409.html. Copyright owned by the BBC, props to the writer for the transcription.
I’ve stayed far away from most news coverage, especially of Amercan politics, because I believe the rules of the internet also apply irl: don’t feed the troll. It thrives on all attention, on all opposition. We’ve had and have several populist (closest I come to a category for him) leaders. They serve well as a voice of protest, to shake up a staid establishment. They are the Voice of the People, not the rational voice, but “onderbuikgevoelens”, what lives in people’s guts, in their ids. Often ugliness and discontent that shouldn’t be followed blindly, but should be known, and taken into account.
They make destructive leaders. People ruled by their complaints and selfish desires aren’t happy people.
But dammit, now one took the US by storm, and he’s a, no, the world leader, the most powerful man in the Western world, which has a stranglehold on the whole globe, so. And, what is often forgotten, the president affects the world as much as he does the country he rules.
I thought I had it bad, being powerless to prevent it, hating it. Turns out I had it easy, as an observer rather than a participant. Being just a few steps removed.
Still. The Troll is king, and his sheer presence will turn our communities toxic if we don’t moderate them. After all, we’ve lived in the age of the internet. And it doesn’t matter if you’re American or not. He’s too powerful for that.
So let’s make some predictions and see how we can work to counter them.
1. He’ll start a war, likely in the Middle East. It’d make it easier to control people, critics, media, and give him more power and opportunities to push through whatever he wants.
2. He’ll make scapegoats, working with existing prejudice and racism. Which group he’ll target first is anybody’s guess. Muslims and/or Hispanics seem likely, to be profiled as either the cause of violence, war or poverty.
3. He’ll create distractions, i.e.make a lot of pomp and circumstance about championing fast and easy laws that are conservative crowd-pleasers. Think tax cuts and anti-abortion laws. This is likely where the most danger for women’s rights and people with a non-het sexuality lies.
4. He’ll appeal to Christians, so silencing those who would oppose him. Already seen in the fact that most will not comment beyond “Whoever is president, God is King.”
Potential avenues of opposition:
1. Local and state level government. I may be wrong, but it seems like most laws and productive government actually happens at state level these days? Might be enough to prevent some discrimination where you live.
2. Humanitarian organisations and ministry. He’s going to make some people, somewhere, suffer. Let’s prevent what we can and help the rest. And c’mon fellow Christians, even if you believe this is a dark time or even end times, are you really gonna let God catch you sitting on your hands? Let’s get cracking.
3. Trolling the troll. Since he’s out in the open and supposed to be legit now, this is totally the time for a counteroffensive, i.e. attention on social media, poking holes in bullshit arguments for wars. Who knows. Trying to govern a country eventually wrecked the coalition that included the most prominent Dutch populist. It’s just gonna be a long game.
And yeah, none of these are new, I know, but my point is: we’re not powerless. Nor can we get much done alone. These are group efforts, so.
Now to actually see what I can do.
P.S. and…. like I almost did, do not forget to account for the danger and hate he represents. I am white, I am Christian, and I feel distinctly unsafe every time I see his face. I can’t begin to understand the impact his presence has on most, either as a trigger for fear or an accellarent to hate. Several teachers I’ve spoken to describe how many children they needed to comfort, either because “the bully won, why?” or real fears of having family and friends taken away in the near future.
So step 1. Get me some friggin humility and real information.
Well, I thought I’d need a little time to settle in after my move, and here we are, a year later.
I can’t say it was on purpose, but… it was a natural break. After a few months of research and thinking and exploring my sexuality it was good to simply live life with it as part of my mental make-up. Get some answers to questions that only time and experience can answer. Or just plain-old new experiences in a different place and culture. Because, yes, going somewhere else means, in part, reinventing who and what you are.
So I wanted to share some of that, likely less formally than previous posts now that demisexuality feels less like something I’ve studied and more like something I’ve lived. Hope it’s useful anyway.
See you around and I’m off to see what’s new in 2016, never mind that it’s almost 2017.
For December’s Carnival of Aces, about staying in the closet, I’d like to write about my own struggles with my fellow Christians. Thinking I should tell them about asexuality, feeling I can’t.
I am a practicing Christian who identifies as neither hetero nor gay, but as demisexual. I’ve explored my sexuality in my mid-twenties. I’m from an open culture and a liberal church and a loving family.
Aside from a few private conversations, I am in the closet. This blog has a pseudonym. Acquintances don’t know and, mostly, don’t ask.
Part of me just doesn’t want it. Sexuality is mine, not for others to know or judge. As a woman, you’re too quickly an object anyway. I honestly love being a sexual subject, undisturbed, not much noticed because of beauty or age or behaviour. Unshamed and as such, unashamed. Not harrassed so far and yes, I’ve been lucky but I can say this for my country: people can just be people.
One drop of acid in all the honey…
I dread to speak of asexuality to my brothers and sisters in faith. At the same time, how the hell are they going to get informed, given a fair chance to be a constructive part of the discussion, if someone doesn’t speak up?
After several hours’ bible study and arguing in prayer, I can only conclude the following: the core of the Christian gospel holds for sexual natures and behaviour as it does for any part of us. In other words, being Christian, you believe you are forgiven any wrongdoing, you believe you are loved. You believe this is a base to build an awesome, joyful life and be a good part of humanity. More to the point, you believe all people are loved, equally, by a God whose say-so you’ve accorded the absolute and ultimate authority.
I felt confirmed in my own faith and practice. I felt the more puzzled by why sexuality, any (a)sexuality should be a problem. I felt the most surprised by my own troubled and continued silence.
Why can’t I come out to fellow Christians, if I believe God Himself is alright with my demisexuality?
Truth is: I’m scared.
I don’t believe most of my fellow Christians obey God. I have seen them exclude, discriminate and commit violence on people with other sexualities. It does not inspire confidence. I have found some of them to be as proud as the Israel chastised by old-testament prophets. I think them to be so far from the truth, sometimes… will I be accepted in my lifetime?
Yes, by some. Not by others. But fear speaks in black and white, not shades of grey.
I have trouble quantifying exactly what my concerns are. I can’t say what would be the correct course, for one community to engage the other. On a personal level, it’s silenced me. It may do for a while yet.
Lighting four candles, one more each week. Reading the story of the immaculate conception… Mary, visited by the angel Gabriel. Mary, the archetype virgin who dared to have a kid. Mary, mother of the gently smiling face of women’s split sexuality. (The other face smirks)
Refreshingly, the pastor remarked that we spent too much time focusing on the virgin bit. It was cool, what she did, but let’s not get obsessed, shall we? I settled in for some original food for thought.
Let’s focus on Gabriel, he said. And then proceeded to sexualise Gabriel’s visiting Mary. Proceeded to call his speech “courting her” to have God’s child and “seducing her” with the image of what she’d do. It got a bit suggestive.
And I just. No.
I could not conceive of an angel being sexual, here. This story, out of all stories, is supposed to be non-sexy. That’s the point. Wasn’t no sex. Why read into it? Why pretend there was some sort of spiritual version of attraction?
And then realised that was the whole point: if you’re sexual you can and do read that sort of thing into it. You can read attraction or sexual tension into any story. Into almost any situation, in fact. That’s how powerful our imagination can be. Whether it’s there or not… ‘s mostly in our mind.
Conversely, we can happily go through life without reading a sexual layer into anything. Nothing need be sexual if it isn’t explicit. Not flirting. Not a romantic movie. Not a gaze aimed at us.
So yeah, even the story of the immaculate conception can have a sexual charge to some readers. And in other cases, what might be sexually charged to one person, is not to the other. At all.
I know that what I find to be sexually charged is far more limited than it is for most people. ‘s why I consider myself to be on the asexual spectrum.
And… it’s alright. It’s all in our minds anyway. Like a lusty angel Gabriel is now in mine.
No, not the one from Supernatural. Unfortunately.
So after reading up on sexiness… This post and all those it links: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/an-exploration-of-not-wanting-to-be-sexy-and-of-never-feeling-sexy/
I realised, I’m unaccustomed to thinking of myself as sexy, and as nice as it is to be appreciated that way… it’s made me rather self-consciousness. Especially since I rarely consider anything visual sexy myself, as in causing the buzz in my mind and lower body that’s a precursor to desire or causing attraction.
So, as celebration and affirmation, here’s a list of what I find sexy.
Minds. Interesting bubbles of humanity. I could be delighted by them and revel in them all the livelong day.
Acts-ideas-agents. The trifecta of the body’s input, the mind’s input and the heart’s input. Done right, any input that works on all three levels and is contextualised as “sexy” can get really intense. Charged.
Sensation. Touch. Just. Works.
So, considering all that, am I sexy? All of the sexiness I perceive is based in interaction, preferably the reciprocal kind. It’s rather hard for me to consider it a personal quality.
Although… If a person is the source of much of it… It does tend to get associated with him. So, perhaps, after being sexy with a person for a while they become it, by association.
One thing you definitely should not be doing in your late twenties is staring at a pic on your phone and thinking this is all still rather new and exciting.
Teens, yes. Twenties, no.
I’m doing it anyway. I’m loving the hell out of it.
Who cares, really, who cares what age you start, or what age a romantic schmuck with a phone in her hand’s supposed to be.
I want to feel like this when I’m eighty too.
Happily, octogenarians date. There is hope.
*prods the pretty article on sexual development possibly being more gradual than a simple teenage sexual awakening, and starting earlier*
I like this word.
It says that realisation of attraction and orientation, including asexuality, starts at, like, 10. A very, very good reason to be open-minded about it and talk to kids.
I remember there being a lot of ado about boybands in primary school, even before the boyfriends thing started.
Followed link from: http://asexandthecity.tumblr.com/post/134290479956/submitted-by-so-much-depends-upon-a-for
Contains non-graphic mentions of sex and desire.
I desire, more to the point, I desire someone.
It’s neither the easy, mostly romantic crushes I’ve had before. It’s not uneasy romantic-and-sexual attraction I have little experience with or even just fumbling around because I think I feel something. I want this to go somewhere.
The difference is huge. Like trying to go down the highway in fifth gear instead of first. Where before I rarely wished to go up the ramp to speed down that road, I want to now, because I feel I could just hurtle along at close to a hundred miles an hour. Sixty should not be a problem. All just because I want this now, with a person. It’s an odd sensation, and in and of itself enjoyable.
Being at this point, I can also say: I am so very glad I explored my identity.
I have words for what I want in a relationship. I can explain how I want to fulfill my desires, how they arise and how they are best satisfied. I can do this in relaxed late-night conversations because I possess the language and lack the shame.
No, I haven’t talked sexual identity. That’d need a load more trust on my end. I am still in the closet to most people.
Still, it’s good, with a specific partner, just to be able to trace out a road map of what I want with them. What I’ve wanted in general. How it matches their desires. What I’ve done and not.
At once the freedom to have sex and talk about it and the freedom to not have (had) it when I don’t want it.
You’ll notice I have omitted gender. ‘s one of the biggest adaptations I made to how I think of relating to another person in any context. Gender plays a role, to some degree, but like sexual attraction comes secondary to who a person is, for me.
The same goes for the divide between a platonic, romantic and sexual relationship… These relationships have become less… other… from each other. Rather, they act on bunches of different levels, and which levels they operate on develops. Depends on the person, the progress of the relationship, the desires of both (or several) people in the relationship.
Yes, the current one happens to be of the opposite gender, the next one likely will be. But honestly, when it could be one month or five years before I desire another this intensely, and I can’t even know whether I’ll desire them romantically or sexually or both or on another level altogether… The categories are… less relevant.
I do not… lack anything, as I was afraid I would.
I am free to be demisexual, and to me it works like this:
I am attracted to another person, in their entirety. My mind will run ahead of my body. Fantasy, before act. Friend, before lover. Mental as well as emotional as well as physical connection. When it comes, the attraction is intense, and the configuration of desire which I feel and express is unique to each person and each relationship.
After a rather intense period of self-discovery, I’ve dropped off the map and what at first seemed to be going to be a few slow weeks turned into months that I needed to invest in other parts of my life.
Having made peace with my (a)sexual self, it stopped being a necessity to research it, think on it, write about it, but.
Even back when I first started, I experienced a sense of freedom and a sense of dread. Neither has subsided. I have, however, started to reap some sizable benefits from being comfortable with and informed about sexuality.
To be honest, I want to record the progression of that, how demisexuality works as an accepted, integrated part of myself, because so far, it’s been good.
And I hope, somehow, somewhere, I can be of the same benefit to someone as other bloggers, researchers and community members of the ace community have been to me.
So you’ll see me around, though with less frequency than before.