Writing From Factor X

February 12, 2011

It’s Not About You

So Dan Savage has been showing his ass in public again. Apparently we’re not supposed to “inflict ourselves on normal people” or something. And the thing is, this isn’t the first time Savage has been hateful towards asexuals and it won’t be the last. But I wanted to comment on it anyway, because I think it showcases a reaction that’s all too common when the discussion of asexuals dating comes up.

Every time I have seen asexuality discussed in a space that is not heavily frequented by asexuals, someone pops up and feels the need to say that they could never date an asexual, even when the original context has nothing to do with asexuals dating. (That’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that same person then going on to discuss how asexuals who date nonasexuals must be horrible people who are deliberately entrapping nonasexual people in manipulative, painfully sexless relationships against said nonasexuals’ will. Apparently the concept of breaking up never occurs to these people.)

Every damn time. I don’t know why these people think this is a useful and valid insight. I don’t know what they think they’re contributing to the conversation. I don’t know if they seriously think they’re saying anything new or useful. I don’t know if the people doing it know just how hurtful it is to always see that. And I’m not sure they care if they do. Because the impact of seeing that over and over and over again hurts.

I don’t even want to date anyone! My relationships are strange and painful, all the more so for being rather outside the monogamous romance situation. And I still get upset at seeing this, because it’s a tangible remainder that the most important relationships in my culture are set up to exclude asexuals. I can’t imagine what a romantic asexual must feel at seeing these responses every time asexual discussion comes up.

After all, it’s not like other romantic asexuals are easy to find. Say you’re a heteroromantic asexual woman and you want to date only other asexuals. Assume that the often-cited figure claiming asexuals make up 1% of the population is correct. Pretend that half of these are men*–well, that leaves you with 0.5% of the population who might possibly be in your dating pool. Now take out all the ones who are aromantic or homoromantic–according to the 2008 AVEN census, about 17.5% of the asexual population identifies as aromantic and 6.5% identify as homoromantic, so that’s 24% of the community which is off limits because of romantic orientation, meaning that 76% are theoretically available**.

So that’s 1% of the population at large x 50 % of these being an acceptable gender x 76% having a compatible romantic attraction, which comes to a whole 0.38% of the population you might be compatible with on the basis of romantic and sexual attraction alone. Forget the vagaries of personality and whether you can even get along with any of these people–that’s what you have to work with. Oh, and just to make the picture a little more bleak, the invisibility of asexuality means that it’s likely that a large chunk of your possible dating pool have no idea what asexuality is or what they are, making them impossible to find. As an extra-special bonus, the fact that so much of the asexual community is online means that if you do manage to meet someone you’re compatible with and have enough in common with him to fall in love with him, it’s likely that he’ll live nowhere near you.

That’s if you’re heteroromantic–the pool gets even smaller if you’re homoromantic asexual, for instance. Or if you’re transgender and have to deal with cissexism from potential partners. Or if you’re non-binary identified in terms of gender. Or disabled, or anything else that often counts as a “dealbreaker” in the dating pool–my point is, the asexual romantic dating pool is tiny and, as everything dealing with asexuals tends to be, isolated. (Invisibility rears its see-through head again!)

So it is not unprecedented that asexual people might try to date nonasexual people now and again. Of course, this brings its own nasty problems along for the ride–to “compromise” on sex or not? Is compromising enough for the sexual partner? Is the asexual partner okay with the sex even long term? Can compromising be a free choice at all, given the odds on finding another asexual partner and the pressure not to end up alone? Is a choice between having so few dating options and having sex you don’t want still an entirely uncoerced, free choice?

And the options for asexuals are further constricted by the way that intimacy and long-term commitment are assumed to be a feature of romantic relationships only, nothing else. What this means is that if an asexual person decides that romantic relationships are unworkable, either through not experiencing romantic attraction or through not being able or interested in “compromising” on sex and not being able to find an asexual partner, you’re almost-but-not-quite Shit Out Of Luck. One of the things this does is place much more pressure on asexuals to try to make romantic relationships that do work, because this is one of the only societally-approved ways to find long-term emotional intimacy.

I’m not criticizing the personal decisions made by anyone; far from it. In general, honesty is the best policy at all times, particularly when considering matters of relationships with other people. But in a conversation about the possibility of asexuals dating nonasexuals? My sympathy is not with the poor nonasexual person, who after all always has the choice of saying “I can’t handle this” and moving on. It’s with the asexual partner, who has so many fewer options.

I’m not even going to discuss the Othering of asexuals (how strange, how broken these people must be) that often occurs alongside these responses. I’m not going to discuss how hateful they are, how they presume maliciousness to asexual people, how they often assume that asexual people are trying to entrap or trick their partners. I’m not even going to bring up the fact that I often see assumptions that asexual people magically know they’re asexual from puberty or something, despite the fact that invisibility conspires to leave us without the words to describe ourselves and the bravery to speak them aloud.

I’m only going to say this: You, the nonasexual person, have many more options than asexual people do. Kindly do not rub that in the face of the people who are most acutely cognizant of that fact.

*Not that that “half” number is likely to be accurate, since for one thing there are a ton of people who don’t identify within the gender binary within the asexual community, but we’re being as broad and generous with our data as possible.

**In fact, that same census details several types of responses that are uncategorizable as heteroromantic, homoromantic, bi- or panromantic, or aromantic, so the numbers may actually be less comforting than this. In order to be as generous as possible, I assumed that answers like “unsure of romantic orientation” and “do not believe in a distinction between romantic and nonromantic attraction” might possibly count and so I excluded only “homoromantic” and “aromantic” answers from the original analysis.

30 Comments »

  1. “the invisibility of asexuality means that it’s likely that a large chunk of your possible dating pool have no idea what asexuality is or what they are, making them impossible to find.”

    This. A thousand times this.

    One of the reasons I began Aces United is because I was hoping to discover other asexuals in my area. As I proceed, I’m realizing that it may be difficult not because there aren’t other Aces in Raleigh but because there might be a whole lot of Aces who are closeted not out of shame but because they are not aware that that is what they are.

    I’ve been referring to myself as asexual since I was fourteen, but it’s only been in the last two years that I’ve discovered that’s a real term and not something I made up to describe my own unique non-attraction. Ever since then, I’ve been told over and over to try hormones, to wait for the right man to come along (nice to assume I’m hetero on top of everything else), to see a doctor, to see a psychologist, etc ad nauseum. I wonder how many other Aces are in the same situation and desperately trying to make themselves sexual.

    In any case, I’ve tried the whole “dating sexuals” or even “hanging out with sexuals as close friends” and what has happened is that the ones I”m trying to date immediately back off when they hear the word “asexual.” I have never once gotten to the point with a sexual partner where we could discuss what kind of compromise would work for us, since they tend to presume that asexual = live with me and never touch me. The ones who are close friends… well, I’ve talked about that enough, and in some ways it is more heartbreaking.

    So for me, I feel it is best I date other asexuals… if I can find them. I’m lucky enough to have had one date with someone who is newly identified as asexual, and I would like to not feel like they are the only one I will ever meet where I live, even though I enjoyed their company.

    Someone like Dan Savage spreading the lie that we are trying to “trick” people or “torture” them does not help the situation, any more than someone spreading the lie that transwomen are trying to “trick” men into gay sex helps trans peple.

    Comment by Stephanie Silberstein — February 12, 2011 @ 4:24 pm | Reply

    • And the thing is–most of the asexual meetup groups are run through AVEN. If you don’t like AVEN, or don’t feel safe there? You’re shit out of luck. I miss the meetups in my city, but I’m not willing to go back to AVEN to get back into them.

      On the discovering it’s real thing–yes. Did you read that piece Siggy wrote recently rebutting Savage’s comments? He pointed out that people who claim to be asexual are almost unilaterally told “no you’re not, because X” where X is any part of them that could possibly be used to invalidate their asexuality. And these are the ones who are secure enough in themselves to actually come out and say it–what about the ones who don’t come up with the word on their own?

      And of course nonasexuals back off fast when you tell them you’re ace. I honestly haven’t tried dating, mostly because it feels wrong to me, but I’ve listened to a lot of aces talk about when you should tell people you’re asexual–first date? third? fifth?–for that very reason. It’s kind of hard to date people when they write you off before listening long enough to hear what you’re actually saying! Either way, there’s no winning.

      Comment by Sciatrix — February 12, 2011 @ 11:15 pm | Reply

      • “And the thing is–most of the asexual meetup groups are run through AVEN. If you don’t like AVEN, or don’t feel safe there? You’re shit out of luck. I miss the meetups in my city, but I’m not willing to go back to AVEN to get back into them.”

        I never really got into AVEN. I kept seeing people on interview clips and whatnot saying they met through AVEN but it just never felt like the right place for me.

        I didn’t know most meetups were AVEN sponsored. I just got tired of not having asexuals to hang out with because everyone I met seemed so overly sexual and I couldn’t relate at all. I spent $36 on meetup.com while wondering whether it was really worth it, and was pleasantly surprised that four people signed up. Of course I’m always surprised whenever anyone outside the people I already know has even heard of asexuality, though.

        “On the discovering it’s real thing–yes. Did you read that piece Siggy wrote recently rebutting Savage’s comments? He pointed out that people who claim to be asexual are almost unilaterally told “no you’re not, because X” where X is any part of them that could possibly be used to invalidate their asexuality. And these are the ones who are secure enough in themselves to actually come out and say it–what about the ones who don’t come up with the word on their own?”

        Just read it, and completely agree. I had to stand up to my therapist more than once about my asexuality. It got to the point where I had to say that if she didn’t accept that’s what I was, I was switching therapists. Even so I’m not really sure I can explain my conflicting feelings about my situation with my best friend. For me, that’s one of the things that is so isolating: who do you talk to and have reasonable chances of successful communication when you’re trying to work out how asexuality works for you or when you need support because your heart just got broken?

        “And of course nonasexuals back off fast when you tell them you’re ace. I honestly haven’t tried dating, mostly because it feels wrong to me, but I’ve listened to a lot of aces talk about when you should tell people you’re asexual–first date? third? fifth?–for that very reason.”

        I personally have it near the top of any online dating profiles that I maintain and tell people that I am ace as soon as the “so what are you looking for in a partner” conversation comes up (which may even precede the date). Yeah, it sucks that most sexual people back off right away, but then again if someone is going to have a huge problem with me being ace, I don’t need to be with them anyway. But yeah, it would be nice if people put aside their preconceived notions for long enough to go on a date.

        Comment by Stephanie Silberstein — February 13, 2011 @ 1:28 am | Reply

      • If you don’t like going on AVEN, the solution is to find the meetup thread for your local area, and then watch the topic with e-mail notifications.

        Actually the better solution is to tell your meetup organizer to make a mailing list. They should have one anyway.

        I think the Bay Area meetup group is fairly successful because it gets advertised on Asexy Beast (as opposed to just on AVEN). Many of the attendees are not AVEN regulars.

        Comment by Siggy — February 13, 2011 @ 11:29 am | Reply

        • This is a good point, and one I need to follow up on. I miss the people at the meets in my area.

          Comment by Sciatrix — February 13, 2011 @ 4:41 pm | Reply

  2. Morituri te salutent.

    Also, just the arrogance of these people in deciding that sexual people will necessarily be unfulfilled in relationships with asexual people.

    Comment by slightlymetaphysical — February 12, 2011 @ 5:26 pm | Reply

    • All I can think of now are bad puns about the “little death.” Heh.

      And seriously. You’d think they could acknowledge that not everyone will react to a given situation in the same way.

      Comment by Sciatrix — February 13, 2011 @ 12:16 am | Reply

  3. Oh, ugh, Dan Savage. I corrected someone once who was saying an ace character should be telling his sexual partner to go out and have sex with other people, because that was the way most asexuals handled their romantic relationships with non-asexuals. And their reply was, “Oh, Dan Savage said that’s how asexual people should do it, so that’s what I thought they all did.” It was disturbing to hear that someone in his position was prescribing relationship models and misinforming people about asexuality.

    Re: the numbers game — When we discussed our futures, my friends would occasionally ask me if I would consider dating someone non-asexual, and I was always surprised that they thought I would primarily be thinking of dating another ace person. Because at no point in time did I really ever imagine finding another ace person who happened to also be someone I’d want to date.

    I’m wondering if people who think asexuals are going to trick them think we have mind control powers that would allow them to be disgusted at our sexuality while simultaneously controlling them enough to keep them from ever leaving us — like you said, “Apparently the concept of breaking up never occurs to these people.”

    Comment by ace eccentric — February 12, 2011 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

    • Oh good lord. Someone seriously took Dan fucking Savage as a guide to how asexuals handle romantic relationships? The man’s notorious for being an asshole within the asexual community. (I think this is the third or fourth fail on asexuality I’ve heard about from him? Which is actually kind of impressive, given how unusual it is to mention asexuality in the first place in order to fail on it.)

      Yeah. I’ve gone to a couple of meetups, and I’ve been absurdly lucky and met another asexual person as a matter of pure chance, and I can still count the number of other asexual people I have actually met face-to-face on my fingers and not have to branch out to my toes. And I do things like talk about asexuality incessantly on the Internet!

      I do like the idea of having mind control powers, though. The Asexual Agenda deepens. Heh.

      Comment by Sciatrix — February 12, 2011 @ 11:21 pm | Reply

      • They did! I was boggled but somehow managed to reply that Dan Savage is not terribly well-respected in the ace community. I was just glad that the author of the story took my advice and didn’t change the characters, because she wrote it after seeing ace people in the community wishing for more ace fic. (I’ve heard of other fails as well. And I just saw this meme on Tumblr, too.)

        I’m too shy to go to meetups. But wow, meeting someone by chance! I don’t know any aces offline. I know two online in a personal context and consider that a lot of people. There are just not that many people to run into, especially when you factor identification in.

        I clearly need more points to add to The Asexual Agenda.

        Comment by ace eccentric — February 12, 2011 @ 11:47 pm | Reply

        • But seriously, author, it’s nice to try to make acefic and all–but please know what you’re doing first, because acefic that relies on data that bad is just… wow. Almost as bad as the “magical healing cock cures character of asexuality” stuff. (Eventually I should probably write a piece on problematic tropes in acefic… hm.) That’s a fantastic meme, by the way.

          The chance thing involved outing myself in class as a precursor to a rant about the turn classroom discussion had taken (basically: how HARD it is for heterosexual/heteroromantic women to find a good man, baaawww) and then having one of the women giving the presentation say “oh my gosh, me too! No one will ever believe me!” which rather interrupted my rant, but in the best possible way. I know a lot more online, but that’s because I spend a ton of time in asexuality spaces, and most of them don’t even live in the same country as I do, let alone the same state. So yeah. Welcome to the good side of the Internet, I guess…

          Comment by Sciatrix — February 13, 2011 @ 12:13 am | Reply

          • Well that’s the thing! The author went to AVEN and read a bunch of the wiki stuff before writing it, so the fic was actually really good. Rereading my comments I realize that was unclear — the person quoting Dan Savage was a reviewer telling the author that her fic needed to be changed. That’s why I steeled myself to actually say something, when normally I wouldn’t speak up, because I didn’t want the author to get a false impression. (That would be a good post. I think asexual_fandom did a resource post for fanfic writers, actually.)

            Wow. That really was the best possible way to have your rant interrupted. I think my brain would do its own double-take if that happened to me. I’m really glad that your blogroll is so comprehensive because that’s actually where I found most of the blogs I’m reading now. Which is really nice for me because forums are harder for me to interact with. Can’t for the life of me remember how I found this blog, unfortunately.

            Comment by ace eccentric — February 13, 2011 @ 1:03 am | Reply

  4. I don’t understand how people are so bad about this. Your points seem absurdly obviously to me.

    Obligatory plug for polyamory as a good way for sexuals and asexuals to form stable relationships. 😉

    Comment by Semiel — February 13, 2011 @ 12:37 am | Reply

    • I second the Poly suggestion. Of course maybe that sounds like the same thing as “sending your partner out to sleep with other people” to the general public, though I’d expect Dan Savage to know better (maybe I’m just expecting too much.

      Comment by asexualsexologist — February 13, 2011 @ 10:53 am | Reply

    • Ok, so I am a great champion of polyamorous asexuality (indeed, of polyamorous aromance), and I think it is massively useful if you can make it work. I’d really love to see an ace-friendly, ace-inclusive poly framework become the mainstream for polyamory.

      However, I think there also needs to be a lot more recognition of monogamous asexual relationships, partly because not all asexuals can be poly and partly because the asexual polyamorous thing feeds into the idea that someone who has any level of sexual attraction can’t have a sexually exclusive relationship with an asexual without their genitals drying up and dropping off. Which, as an idea, I think is something we actually need to tackle head-on, rather than sidling around.

      Comment by slightlymetaphysical — February 13, 2011 @ 7:50 pm | Reply

      • I hope I didn’t imply that being poly was right for all asexuals, though my phrasing in retrospect may have been tactless. I’ve found poly to work for me, just like some sexuals have. I do assume that most asexuals are not inherently poly, just like most sexuals don’t seem to be inherently inclined to being poly. I agree that the idea that people cannot be happy in a monogamous relationship with an asexual is a problem which could benefit from more personal stories to the contrary being made more public. Likewise, because I’m selfish, I’d also like for the poly movement to be more clear that they aren’t just “letting their partner cheat on them” (or cheating on their partner with you!).

        Comment by asexualsexologist — February 14, 2011 @ 2:10 am | Reply

        • Don’t worry, there was nothing I found objectionable in your comment. My comment was more of a reminder to myself than anything, I have a tendency to think ‘Well, they can just go get poly polygons’ which, as a statement of privilege, is up there with ‘Let them eat cake’. I’m trying to challenge myself out of that, as part of this whole very-queer-not-quite-asexual thing I have going on, and be able to speak for less queer, more conventional asexuals, who need to not be deprived of normal-people things.

          Also, I’ve just found your site, and I love the idea of being an asexual sexologist. Best of luck.

          Comment by slightlymetaphysical — February 14, 2011 @ 6:53 am | Reply

      • I feel like I need an education here. Are there any resources on how to make monogamous sexual/asexual relationships work? Because at the moment, I can’t really visualize it, but I believe you if you tell me they work.

        Comment by semiel — February 14, 2011 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

        • Well, if you assume that the only difference between a sexual and an asexual is the amount they want to have sex, then you get two different monogamous relationship models. In one model, the sexual partner doesn’t have any partnered sex or anything resembling partnered sex. There’s a trade-off on the sexual partner’s side for all the romance and emotional intimacy they desire without the sex. Which sounds rather horrible, but when you consider that there’s a decent number of sexual people out there who just don’t care that much about sex, and there’s a good number of sexual people who aren’t having sex for various reasons, it’s not too bad. This is brought up quite a lot on the Sexual Partners subforum on AVEN, though I have no idea what the quality of discussion is like there, these days.

          In another model, the asexual person has either sex (whatever that means) or engages in some activity that feels sexual to the sexual partner, but non-sexual to the asexual partner (which, as I understand, is anything from massages to talking dirty to kink stuff to things which might be normally considered sex acts). As far as I know, Elizabeth at Shades of Grey has compiled some of the best resources/experiences about this: http://grasexuality.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/doing-sex-tips-for-the-adventurous-asexual/
          , although Sciatrix may be able to direct you to some of the conversation that’s been happening recently about ‘compromise’ and how useful that is as a model for asexual relationships.

          Comment by slightlymetaphysical — February 15, 2011 @ 6:20 am | Reply

          • Hmm. Thinking about it more, my question was ill-formed. That all makes sense, and answers the question I asked, but doesn’t answer the question I should have asked. :p

            It makes sense to me that compromise is possible, and not horrible. I have no problem with that. My actual question is, “What circumstances would lead to a situation where strict sexual exclusivity between a sexual and an asexual is authetically the best situation possible for everyone involved?” It makes sense that you can make it work, but why should you _want_ to make it work?

            Comment by Semiel — February 15, 2011 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

            • Because they like eachother and either one or both don’t want or can’t do other solutions?

              “Guy meets girl in club. Guy and girl (eventually) like each other romantically, and one of the two also likes the other sexually.”
              Why would they *not* want to make it work?

              What is the ‘best situation possible’? Precise match-up of sexual needs? It’s hard enough finding someone you actually like.

              Comment by Norah — February 15, 2011 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

              • “Best situation” is where you don’t have to talk about “compromises”, but about awesome, fulfilling relationships that are meeting all of your needs. See my longer response to Sciatrix.

                Comment by semiel — February 15, 2011 @ 8:26 pm | Reply

            • Also, not everyone can deal with polyamory–and that actually does include some asexual people. I’m with Sam on this one. Because not everyone is willing or emotionally able to deal with jealousy issues (and this includes, by the way, sexual partners who might feel that this is “cheating” even with full consent of their parter, not just monogamous asexuals), it’s a good idea to consider how sexual monogamy in an asexual/sexual relationship might be workable.

              In other words polyamorous relationships often include extra emotional legwork, can be hard to find partners for (again, this brings us back to the “no partners for romantic aces” thing), are sometimes incompatible with emotional issues, and just aren’t always the best possible solution for everyone. Granted, neither are monogamous relationships. The point is to have a varied toolbox of possibilities that can be modified to fit various people and relationships. One size does not fit all, and that includes polyamory.

              Also, what Norah has said above. I’m reading this as “sexually monogamous sexual/asexual relationships are inherently a bad situation,” and I am not sure whether you’re intending to imply it but I’m seriously not thrilled with that. It’s harder to make that work, sure. That doesn’t mean that these kinds of relationships are always bad. If people can make them work so that everyone is happy, more power to them.

              Speaking of consent, I know SlightlyMetaphysical above hoped I could direct you to some resources discussing consent within that context, but honestly I haven’t seen that much discussion on that topic. There needs to be, and I’ll probably do a future post about it.

              Comment by Sciatrix — February 15, 2011 @ 4:08 pm | Reply

              • For the record, I’m not necessarily advocating polyamory, just some sort of non-monogamy.

                “Also, what Norah has said above. I’m reading this as “sexually monogamous sexual/asexual relationships are inherently a bad situation,” and I am not sure whether you’re intending to imply it but I’m seriously not thrilled with that.”

                I sorta mean that, but less strongly than you think. I don’t think it’s bad because asexuals are especially problematic, or something, but just because any situation where someone has to “compromise” something for the relationship is probably a bad situation, unless there’s literally no other option. (And that can just as easily be the asexual who would rather not do sexual things, but does for the sake of the relationship. I don’t assume the sexual is getting the worse end of the deal.)

                I would have the same problem with, say, a relationship where one of the people had to give up roleplaying games or horseback riding, or had to do those things even though they don’t enjoy them. In fact, I think those situations are directly parallel. I would think it was bizarre if someone said, “You can only play D&D if I’m also playing. Also I don’t like D&D.” I think it’s similarly bizarre if you replace “D&D” with “sex”. What am I missing?

                Comment by semiel — February 15, 2011 @ 8:24 pm | Reply

                • The thing that has my hackles up (and I’m betting Norah’s, since she’s explicitly written about the way she is often told she’s a bad person for being an asexual dating a sexual person in the past before) is that saying “this is necessarily a bizarre and bad situation”, even not strongly, disproportionately affects asexuals over nonasexuals. It’s also something that gets used a whole hell of a lot to criticize asexuals dating nonasexuals, the response to which is the entire point of this post. You do realize that what you’re saying here is essentially a milder point of what Dan Savage was saying, right?

                  Let’s explain. Your D&D analogy is horribly flawed because of two things. One, in the sense that D&D does not have anything like the cultural weight that gets put on sex and particularly not the cultural baggage. People are conditioned to believe things like “sex is the closest form of intimacy” and to equate sex with love, particularly romantic love. This happens from infancy, it is pervasive and it is ubiquitous and it is impossible to escape even when you are living proof that it is not true.

                  Even when you know this conditioning is false, it can be hard to break it. This is why polyamory does not work for everyone. Some people get very jealous–both asexuals, who may legitimately worry that their sexual partner may give them up for someone who can provide something they can’t, and sexuals, who may feel that they’re cheating even if their partner knows what’s going on. Some people can’t break that conditioning, emotionally. So for some people, polyamory is simply not an option for them. This is true of both sexual and asexual people, but it’s hardest for romantic asexual people because romantic asexuals have so many fewer options.

                  Also: not-liking D&D is exponentially more common than not-liking sex. In your scenario, it would be totally easy for the non-D&D-liking person to just break up and find someone else who doesn’t like D&D. I’ve just explained why this totally fails with response to asexuality, so I won’t do that again.

                  The thing is? If you’re an asexual trying to find intimacy, just about every situation is bad. I love the queerplatonic discussions and trying to apply them to my life, but it is not easy for me to convince other people to engage in them! Romantic relationships are seriously privileged above friendships. However, romantic relationships with other asexuals are incredibly hard to find (see the main post) and polyamorous relationships, as I just explained, cause problems for other reasons–not the least of which that not all asexuals can deal with polyamory and in addition adds scarcity right back into the mix.

                  So asexuals are dealing with a host of hard options just to start with. Now you’re coming in and saying that what is actually one of the more accessible options, if one of the more difficult and problematic ones, is somehow inherently so bad that there’s no point in trying to make it work, that you should just use a totally different model instead. And you’re not acknowledging that this different model actually has its own challenges, because to you it happens not to be an issue–but not everyone is you. Do you see why I am having trouble with this line of discussion?

                  Comment by Sciatrix — February 15, 2011 @ 9:07 pm | Reply

                  • Yeah, that makes sense.

                    I think my issue was some sort of location/social circle privilege. I’m surrounded by people for whom relationship compromises are a much more difficult and foreign concept than polyamory or queerplatonic relationships, but I guess that’s not the norm.

                    Thanks for the detailed response!

                    Comment by semiel — February 15, 2011 @ 9:42 pm | Reply

                    • I like this discussion.

                      But, yeah, Semiel, I think you are coming from a point of view that not everyone shares. You seem to be looking for the most practical relationship style, and finding that that is polyamory, even more so with mismatched sex drives. It’s obvious that a lot of people don’t work like that- there’s lots of reasons why some people just aren’t going to be poly- some of them are rational, like the ones Sciatrix suggested, I think some of them are just preferences that are as deeply ingrained as sexual orientation.

                      And I disagree with you stringently about compromise (I want to write a ‘define compromise!’ post at some point, but am afraid of my privilege). If one partner goes out to spend time with another rather than sitting at home eating pizza and studying, that’s compromise. If one partner is really stressed and depressed and the other one decides to stay in and cuddle them rather than going out to a party, that’s compromise. If one partner tries to suppoer the other partner in something important to them, that’s compromise. If one partner lays down some exclusivity (like sex or Doctor Who), and then the other partner really wants to do that with someone else, but doesn’t, that’s compromise.

                      Compromise, as I define it, is the very CORE of a relationship.

                      Comment by slightlymetaphysical — February 16, 2011 @ 8:21 am

                    • Hrm, interesting.

                      My intuition is that most of those are not “compromise”, as I understand it. I eagerly go out with my partner and support her activities, those are things I desperately want to do. And, while I may not want to comfort her when she’s depressed, it’s a necessary thing given the basic facts.

                      A “compromise”, in the sense I’ve been using it, is where one person has to do something she actively doesn’t want to do (or not do something she wants to do), when there’s no overriding factor forcing her to do that. The classic example is someone being forced to give up a hobby because their partner thinks its childish or wasteful. I think I’ve been properly chastened for assuming that sexual/asexual monogamy is a compromise in this sense, but I would still argue that something that _did_ fit this model would be bad.

                      Comment by semiel — February 16, 2011 @ 8:50 am

  5. […] I worry about pressure to compromise. As I pointed out earlier this month, the numbers are not in asexuals’ favor if the romance/friendship binary […]

    Pingback by Let’s Have a Conversation About Compromise and Consent « Writing From Factor X — March 7, 2011 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

  6. […] way, and if I do date, I have to figure out how to either connect to other asexual people (difficult) or negotiate expectations that romantic relationships be sexual relationships, […]

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