Writing From Factor X

September 24, 2010

Breaking the Chain

So right now I’m taking a Human Sexuality class. I signed up for it in large part because I wanted to learn a bit more about the mainstream conceptualizations of sexuality within psychology. I like psychology, you see (it’s one of my majors), and I wanted to know what the training of the sex therapists you always see on asexual interviews was like. I wanted to see how those conceptualizations differ from the conceptualizations of sex and romance I largely grew up with, which are heavily influenced by the asexuality community. I started lurking when I was fourteen, you see, and I’ve been identifying as asexual free of self-doubt since sixteen, and in a very real way the asexuality community has been my primary source of discussion about how sexuality works. So I signed up for this course, thinking to see how “everyone else” thinks about the whole thing.

Well. In some ways, I’m not impressed. There seems to be this assumption that a lot of things associated with sexuality and romance are always or usually linked together on some basic chain, and that removing one link takes off most of the rest of them as well. The most obvious ones are what asexuals categorize as sexual and romantic attraction, but there even appeared to be an assumption that behavior factors in. Which, no–if you’re studying patterns of sexual attraction, that’s one thing, and if you’re studying types of sexual behavior, that’s quite another. Using the same term for both is just confusing. Moreover, it ignores the fact that while the population of people with a particular attraction pattern and the population of people who actually engage in sexual behavior along those patterns overlap, they are not actually the same thing. Studying behavior is worthy on its own, yes, but I’m confused as to why the terminology seems to confuse these two related but separate concepts.

Asexuals also tend to unlink many different things which mainstream conceptualizations assume always go together: sexual behavior, desire for romantic relationships, desire for emotional intimacy, desire for children, ability to love, experience of infatuation–there’s a lot of it, and I think a lot of nonasexual people could benefit from the understanding that sometimes these things do go together neatly, and sometimes they don’t. The Queersecrets tumblr has been seeing a fair amount of asexual action lately, and after a while of this I noticed that several people had begun posting and identifying in their secrets as homoromantic heterosexual or vice versa. Even in this Human Sexuality class, my professor described a friend of hers who sounded very much like a heteroromantic homosexual, or at least a heteroromantic bisexual-leaning-heavily-towards-women. As she was discussing how unusual and boundaries-blurring such a case study seems, I thought to myself: no, it isn’t. I feel like people with mismatched orientations in general would benefit greatly from discussion of that, just as we who are asexual benefit from discussing asexuality. And I would love to see such conceptualizations of a broken chain become more common in the mainstream.


  1. Just curious whether you consider “romantic”-asexuals to have a mismatched orientation as well? And then there are always aromantic sexuals. It’s hard for me to conceptualized these “mismatched” orientations sometimes, because to me, romantic orientation is not an intuitive concept. I guess I’m like the romantic equivalent of genderqueer. But I think people with these mismatches are often told stuff like “You’re afraid of commitment” or “You’re denying your true orientation”, so I think it’s important for them to know they’re not that weird after all.

    Comment by ily — September 26, 2010 @ 12:16 am | Reply

    • I usually conceptualize romantic asexuals as “mismatched orientations” as well–sorry I did not make that clear! I do find it hard to conceptualize romantic orientation, too–I identify as aromantic specifically because I have a lot of trouble conceptualizing the difference between close friendships and romantic relationships, especially when you factor in the existence of polyamorous people. (I have a whole post to write on that, actually. It’s very confusing, but I assume that if you experience a clear romantic orientation you notice, and that for many people it is quite clear. So I’m going off an understanding here that I don’t actually experience myself.)

      And yes, that or they think they’re bi but really confused, which I have also seen. I also tend to think that people who are bi on one orientation and monosexual or monoromantic on the other might have a really tough time figuring out what’s going on, and especially tend to get hit pretty hard by confusion regarding their feelings for other–for instance, if you don’t conceptualize romantic and sexual orientation as separate, what are you if you’re a girl who only crushes on guys but would totally have sex with guys or girls? (There’s an orientation which could catch a whole lot of flack for playing into misogynistic and heteronormative narratives, for instance, especially if they weren’t sure what was up with it.) The fact that you’re open to both on one axis but not so much on the other must be a very confusing set of feelings to navigate.

      Comment by Sciatrix — September 26, 2010 @ 2:53 am | Reply

  2. oh, also better on WordPress? E-mail subscriptions.

    Comment by ily — September 26, 2010 @ 12:17 am | Reply

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