Category Archives: Relationships

One-sided relationships: in relationship limbo?

This entry is for the January 2016 Carnival of Aces: Relationship Stages.

(content note: brief mention of sexual harassment)

If there are any errors with proofreading or clunky sentences or anything I forgot to add in, it’s because I was in a hurry to post this before midnight.

This is a topic I almost didn’t write about, but decided to at the last minute. I used to think that committed relationships, romantic ones in particular, had a straightforward progression. Either a friendship built up and both people had romantic feelings for each other that progressed over time, or it was love at first sight.

I’m still not very sure whether I even experience romantic attraction at all, but I can say at least that I’m not a very romantic person, aromantic or not. This led me into a situation that doesn’t fit the expected relationship progression: One-sided relationships.

I’ve seen some people say one-sided relationships aren’t a problem if everyone involved agrees to it being one-sided, like if an aromantic person and alloromantic person are together and accept that the romantic attraction won’t be reciprocated.

However, back in college, I was in a romantic relationship I didn’t necessarily agree to. Whether it was romantic or not feels dubious, and whether it even counted as a committed relationship still feels dubious to me. Years ago, I knew I wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship, and felt repulsed by the idea with anyone, but one of my friends kept insisting that we were a couple, and his friends and family insisted it too. I cared for him as a person, but just didn’t feel that way towards anyone.

Other people I told about this told me it didn’t count because it was one-sided, but I couldn’t agree with that either. I understand why they said that, but it felt like they were ignoring what I had been going through, and I struggled with this feeling of being in “relationship limbo”. I couldn’t get a consensus from anyone, and I felt like I couldn’t trust my intuition.

He and I were never on the same wavelength about this “relationship”, through no fault of our own, but this issue led to a lot of arguments between us. I remember him saying that us becoming a couple happened gradually, when to me it felt so abrupt, since he one day declared I was his partner, when we hadn’t done anything noticeably different before, so I didn’t see any progression from a friendship to a romantic relationship, but he might have. Isn’t there supposed to be a clear transition from a friendship to a romantic relationship?

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Asexuality and Codependency: Vicious Cycle

This entry is for the June 2015 Carnival of Aces: Mental Health.

(warning: talk of emotional abuse, sexual coercion)
I’m very lucky that I’ve had positive experiences with therapy. None of my therapists knew of asexuality until I told them about it, but they were willing to understand. I was nervous about mentioning it to each therapist I came out to, and the first one was the most difficult for me, because of why I was there.

3 years ago, I saw a therapist in order to get help for my codependency, so I had to explain the dysfunctional relationship I was in, and the dynamics of it. My therapists didn’t show any sign of being judgmental, but fear did hold me back from coming out for some time, because of my bad experiences with the friends that I first came out to.

These “friends” frequently policed my identity, with my sexual identity being the part that they were the most insistent on policing, because they didn’t think I was capable of knowing what mine was for myself. This issue wasn’t exclusively about asexuality, because they also knew that I’m repulsed by sex, and have an ideological rejection of it.

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Why can’t a character be written as asexual or aromantic by default?

This entry is for the March 2015 Carnival of Aces: Writing About Asexuality

I’ve written stories before, that didn’t have any romantic situations in them. Most of my stories didn’t touch on sexuality nor romance at all, but I remember that one I wrote had a one-sided romance in it that failed; the protagonist not only didn’t show any romantic nor sexual interest in this other character, but she (the protagonist) never showed any sexual or romantic interest in anyone.

I never specified her orientation, but she may have been the closest I had written as an aromatic asexual character. Maybe. I never said it outright, because I didn’t know of asexuality nor aromanticism, nor the difference between them. Was that character both celibate and nonamorous? Maybe, but I never said that outright either. I also had no interest in writing anything sexuality or romance-related into the plots of my stories, because it would’ve been out of place, and gotten in the way.

Celibate nonamorous characters were my default, as far as I was concerned. Probably. These characters didn’t ideologically reject sex or romance either (I didn’t really know that was an option at the time, except for religious celibacy); they just didn’t seem to care. Practically speaking, I wouldn’t expect a character to be thinking about romance and/or sex, or at least not try to seek it out when they’re focused on a quest, like saving the world.

It’s frustrating that when writing aromantic and/or asexual characters, it may need to be said outright that they’re aromantic and/or asexual, because of the contradictory ways heterosexism works, and affects how characters are portrayed in fiction. I might have written characters as asexual and aromantic by default, but many people wouldn’t see it that way. Granted, there are a few ways where sexual and/or romantic subplots could be worked into a story, but oftentimes, so much of it is gratuitous.

The worst is when the heroes of the story get these subplots because they’re “supposed” to, because the “good” characters deserve to have a love life (often a heteronormative one), as a way of humanizing them, and because it is treated as universal sign of human fulfillment.  It gets worse when villains are portrayed as being single, and their lack of love life is used to point to their villainy, and the villians who do reform, get love interests of their own.

For a long time, I wasn’t aware of these norms, and when I watched movies or shows without any romantic or sexual subplots, I made no assumptions about the character’s sexualities. Perhaps I assumed they could’ve been asexual and/or aromantic before knowing of asexuality and aromanticism, but I realize now that makes me an outlier.

One facet of heterosexism is that someone is assumed to be straight, unless specified otherwise, such as explicitly showing interest in the same gender. A character who hasn’t shown any interest in sex and romance may be assumed to be straight, but just hasn’t found anyone yet.

It’s contradictory, but another facet is that a character who isn’t explicitly portrayed with an interest in another gender, and seeking out relationships with another gender, is assumed to be gay, and just hasn’t found anyone yet.

Cinderace wrote about the latter, using Merida from Brave, and Elsa from Frozen as examples. Those are appealing interpretations, and they’d both be good representation for any of those groups, but nothing is said outright about their orientations. I like those interpretations, but it’s also plausible that they could be straight, but don’t value sex and romance.

Regardless, I like that they both go against the “Found a love interest, and lived happily ever after” trope, showing that romantic relationships aren’t needed for everyone to be fulfilled.

Those two facets combined, reflect a real-life dynamic I’ve seen in the asexual community: So many people who before they realized they were asexual, thought that either they must’ve been straight just because they knew they weren’t interested in the same gender, and those who thought that they must’ve been gay just because they knew they weren’t interested in another gender.

I’ve also seen many who thought they were bisexual (although bisexuality gets erased all the time in the media too), although not interested in sex, because they didn’t have a preference. They thought they were equally sexually attracted to the genders, though that sexual attraction is none!

Both of these facets of heterosexism also feed into compulsory sexuality, and amatonormativity, assuming that everyone wants sex and romance, therefore whoever isn’t interested in it, hasn’t found the right person yet, or it’s assumed to be a phase. Or it’s caused by something, and is “cured”. The most notorious example of this applying to asexuality being portrayed, is the House episode featuring an “asexual” character, the one who’s asexuality was the result of a pituitary tumor, while his wife faked being asexual.

Not seeing any portrayals of characters that affirm it’s okay to not desire sex, and to not want sex, showing that they can live happy lives without it, also feed into the idea of asexuality as something that is just a phase, or needs to be treated, and these messages can be internalized. Aromanticism is also similarly pathologized.

What about writing a character who is explicitly shown to be sexually inactive, is happy about it, or at least doesn’t care, and has no intention of ever finding a sexual partner?

They could be asexual, but could be celibate too, and if nothing is said on whether said character desires sexual relationships, you might not be able to tell. However, such a character could be a step in the right direction for everyone; if they’re in a romantic relationship, then they by example can show that sex and romance don’t have to go together. The pitfall of making romance the center of their lives and as a sign of fulfillment would need to be avoided though.

Or if they have no desire for romance, or don’t want it, then they show by example that there are people who can be fulfilled without either sex or romance. Care would need to be taken to distinguish sex from romance, to show that they’re separate things.

When writing asexual characters, there’s the challenge of showing that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are separate things; an aromantic asexual character may need to be written in a way that shows that their asexuality and aromanticism aren’t the same thing, and that asexual characters who do experience romantic attraction aren’t simply “hetero/homo/bi/pansexual lite”.

If mixed relationships are going to be written about, a lot of care also needs to be taken to not feed into the ideas that: asexuals can, and should compromise on sex, that the “compromising” must mean the asexual partner having sex, and that they will do it for their partner, since they’re “the one” and it’s “true love”, because that also feeds into the idea that a relationship must have sex in it in order to be valid, or that it’s the most “valid” expression of love.

Writing more about it, it’s frustrating to think that every effort to write an asexual and/or aromantic character, to explicitly portrayed and recognized as such (as opposed to subtext), may need to be written with the intent to educate the reader.

How do you do that without slowing down the plot? Is that the only way to get an asexual and/or aromantic character recognized though, and the only way to break free from the expectations that make it difficult to write an asexual character without saying it outright? Can’t asexual and aromantic writers write for themselves, or do we have to write for an audience while having to educate them in the process?

What is romance-repulsion?

Little has been written about romance-repulsion. I’m in the process of writing something about what romance is, but want to include a section on romance-repulsion. I know it exists, I relate to the concept personally, and I’ve seen some discussions about it. Sometimes I still can’t tell if it’s a repulsion towards romance itself, or repulsion towards conventional ideas of romance and the expectations surrounding it. Or could it really be either one?

Personally, I’m repulsed by the conventional ideas of romance and its expectations, and I also oppose them on an ideological level. I still might without romance-repulsion, because of how unhealthy conventional ideas of romance glamorized by society are, encouraging possessiveness and codependency, and treating friendships as disposable. As someone who’s suffered through codependency, and am still trying to recover from it, it’s not love, it’s hell.

It disgusts me that codependent relationships are seen as “true love”, and glamorized by the media. I also value my friendships too much to want to toss them aside.

I’m still uneasy about the thought of entering a romantic relationship in general, and I can’t tell if it must be because of those expectations looming over me, and that I’ve been dragged into relationships I didn’t agree to before.

Anyone else identify with the concept of romance-repulsion, and how does it manifest for you? Is your repulsion influenced by the conventional ideas of romance, how they’re portrayed in the media, or is it a repulsion towards the concept of romance itself? I’d also like to know if it manifests differently between aromantic and non-aromantic people.

To you, is romance inherently possessive? I’ve seen some romance-repulsed people say that it is, or isn’t.

Because “romance” is more difficult to define, and more subjective than sexuality is, where is the line between repulsion to romance, and ideological opposition? I’ve seen some romance-repulsed people define their repulsion in a way that to them, romance is inherently possessive. I feel like this line is a lot less clear, because I understand that someone can have ideological reasons for not having sex (but not see it as a sacrifice akin to how religious celibates see it), without being repulsed.

I fought the monsters, but became one myself: A musing about relationship expectations

Full title: I fought the monsters, but became one myself: A musing about relationship expectations incorporating Nietzsche’s philosophy, with a brief ranting about romance novels
Content warning: Aside from the Carnival of Aces link, all the other links in this post discuss abuse.

This post is intended to be for the November 2014 Carnival of Aces: Expectations in friendships/relationships. (not sure if it counts though, because much of this story took place before I found the asexual community)

One of Nietzsche’s most famous quotes is very fitting for my experiences with the expectations surrounding romantic relationships:

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster… when you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

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Asexuality and relationships? It’s complicated (to write about)!

One of next part of my “Asexuality (and related concepts) 101” page is going to be about relationships, but there are some things that are making me struggle to write for this section, so I’m asking for a lot of help with this one:

Organization: I had in mind the following general topics: challenges asexuals face finding relationships, ace/ace relationships, mixed relationships, and asexuals’ experiences with different relationship models.

How much should I write about these topics on this page, how much should be split off into other pages? If I’m going to be writing about aromantic asexuals and relationships in particular, should that go under the “Asexuality (and related concepts) 101” page, or under a separate aromanticism page?

Information on ace/ace relationships: I know a lot more about mixed relationships, and how to write about them, but I’m struggling to find information specifically about ace/ace relationships. I was thinking of writing about the following things:

  • How sexual attraction towards one partner isn’t needed in a significant relationship to make it fulfilling.
  • How to find other asexuals?: It can be due to chance that two asexuals are in a relationship. Other asexuals seek each other out online, through dating sites specifically for asexuals (such as AceBook), or sites for people looking for nonsexual relationships, therefore are likely to attract a lot of asexuals (such as Celibate Passions). While AVEN isn’t a dating site, and has rules against being used as one, there are some couples who met over AVEN!
  • Romantic and platonic ace/ace relationships: What they’re like, and the differences between them. This one I’d need a lot of help with, because I can’t seem to distinguish nonsexual romantic from platonic relationships.
  • Rhetoric to avoid: suggesting that all asexuals want romantic relationships, or that platonic relationships are “watered down”.

Other ideas, and anything you’d want me to elaborate on?

Being repulsed and “compromising”? (part 2)

I hate when this happens. I was working on a part 2 to this post, shortly after I published it. The first part was about the ways that considerably high statistic of repulsed asexuals being willing to compromise on sex should be taken with a grain of salt, because of the methodological issues surrounding the survey question it was from.

The second part was intended to be based off of observation and personal experience, my concerns about those who actually say they’re willing to compromise. This is a major rewrite, and pardon me if the writing style for this post is so disjointed. There were a bunch of different things I wrote about in my original draft before scrapping it, because I couldn’t figure out how to tie them together. If there’s anything that’s unclear, feel free to say so in the comments.

(TW: sexual coercion, talk of repulsion-shaming, blaming the coerced)

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They nearly pushed me over the edge…

**tw: sexual coercion, asexual invalidation, repulsion-shaming, talk of suicide**

…In the name of sexual liberation. This is a continuation of my Unassailable Asexual post, in which I explained a lot about why some friends I had, were so determined to invalidate my asexuality and sex-repulsion at every turn. Not only did they convince me I had no right to identify as asexual, they tried to make me get over my repulsion, and be open to sex, by shaming and bullying me. These two were both sex-positive extremists; they didn’t see anything wrong with their coercive tactics, because they believed it was “for my own good”, and would “sexually liberate” me.

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Why I’m branching out

Another thing that motivated me to restart blogging, getting involved in the asexual blog community, and try to get back into the tumblr community was the recent realization that by spending all of my asexual community involvement on AVEN, I’ve forgotten about some less-represented viewpoints and experiences, including those that I fall under. I created, with the help of some other AVEN members, the mixed relationships pamphlet that was handed out at the asexual events at the 2014 World Pride. I wasn’t able to make it to World Pride, but I was glad I was able to contribute something to the asexuality events. From what I was told, it was pretty well-received overall, but still had its problems.

One criticism is that it prioritized able, indifferent or favorable, alloromantic asexuals over the more marginalized, which I didn’t intend. When I saw these criticisms, I regretted not asking the tumblr asexual community for input, because from having perspectives different from AVEN’s as a whole, they would’ve caught details that were overlooked, and helped my group avoid mixed messages, and unintended implications. My first response on tumblr was to give clarification to some points in the pamphlet, while asking for clarification on what others said.

Part of the problem was using the word ‘compromise’. When I first found the asexual community through tumblr, I learned that it can be a loaded term, especially for asexuals who felt pressured to push themselves into sex in a mixed relationship. This issue was going on right around the time I found the asexual community, which was 2 years ago, right around this time, but some time after joining AVEN, I forgot all about that issue. Nextstepcake’s response alludes to that major conflict between AVEN and tumblr that was happening at the time.

On the other hand, on AVEN, talking about ‘compromise’ (using that wording) in mixed relationships doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal, because there are plenty of asexual members in mixed relationships who’ve talked about it with their partners, and allosexual members in mixed relationships asking for advice on how it can work with their partners. These are mostly people who unlearned, and challenged the societal assumption that relationships are sexual and romantic by default.

The pamphlet was handed out mainly to people who are new to asexuality and mixed relationships, and these are people who may not have yet unlearned the assumptions about relationships that can pressure asexuals and/or repulsed people into sex, while their partner compromising by not having sex, isn’t seen as a possible or thought-about option. Because of that pressure, an asexual compromising by having sex, and an allosexual compromising by not having sex, aren’t equivalent. That’s something I overlooked, because from the discussions I’ve seen on AVEN, they look to be equivalent.

I understand that giving up sex as a compromise can be difficult for some allosexuals, because of what significance sex has to them, but societal expectations about relationships put more pressure on the asexual partner to compromise by having sex, and the possibility of the allosexual partner not having sex doesn’t cross a lot of peoples’ minds.

The points that were made on the pamphlet only implied that relationships shouldn’t be seen as sexual and romantic by default, but that’s not good enough. I should’ve said it outright, in order to more effectively challenge assumptions. Unlearning the societal assumptions about relationships should be the first step in navigating a mixed relationship, or any kind of relationship for that matter!

My second response on tumblr is admitting how terrible I feel about messing up the way I did. I’m sex-repulsed, voluntarily celibate, and an abuse survivor, and not a very romantic person (not aromantic, but close to it), and I’ve been in an unhealthy mixed relationship. From personal experience, I should know how difficult the topic of ‘compromise’ can be for many people in the asexual community!

How did I disregard that? I didn’t realize until it was too late that the voices of the more marginalized asexuals are still under-represented on AVEN. I thought AVEN as of 2013 and 2014 is more balanced than it was in 2012 (while in 2012, things seemed to be strongly skewed towards sexually active, sex-indifferent and favorable asexuals). Even if it is, there’s still ways to go. The more marginalized groups’ voices are still under-represented, even the sex-repulsed/averse, who make up about 55% of the asexual community!

Don’t get me wrong, I still like AVEN. I like answering questions and meeting people there. I won’t be leaving, but I realize now that I can’t have it be my only source of information on asexual community politics, because so much of it tends to be left out. I didn’t realize until recently that I had shut myself off from a large part of the asexual community. I shut myself off from a lot of under-represented viewpoints, and issues that I only thought were resolved. I shut myself off from a large portion of the under-represented groups, including those that I’m part of. No wonder why I’ve had a hard time talking about some of my experiences. I just thought I’d been feeling isolated because I consciously rejected sex (I saw it as a deliberate decision, and this is actually unusual for an asexual person), and am not originally from the asexual community.

I think that AVEN, and the asexual tumblr+blog community both have their own niches and goals, and it was a mistake for me to see my time spent on AVEN as a replacement for the time I used to spend in tumblr+blog community.