Unconditional Love and Long-Term, Committed Relationships

Longevity has always been really important to me when it comes to relationships. (I mean, interpersonal relationships generally, not romantic relationships specifically.) I want passionate friends who I can happily live with and love for the rest of my life. I want deeply loving friendships that last until death and continue to grow stronger and more meaningful over time. I want commitment from my domestic partners. I want loyalty from every friend I love. I want to know that if I love someone, that person is still going to be in my life 30+ years from now, still connected to me, still caring about and loving me—just as I expect myself to do for them.

I’ve had discussions with people of all ages online about the topic of relationships (not just romantic ones) ending in break-up, and I’ve often been at odds with many of them. I see a severed relationship as a failed relationship. Something went wrong, and that’s why it dissolved. I define “successful relationship” as one that lasts happily until death. People who disagree with me believe that a relationship’s success is based only on how well it served its purpose however long it lasted. They also argue that a relationship that is unhappy but continues is not successful at all, which I agree with. To me, both happiness and endurance define a successful relationship. To the people who disagree with me—and there seem to be a lot, particularly in my age group—happiness in the moment is the only thing that defines whether a relationship was a good one or a successful one. Commitment and loyalty aren’t important or necessary to them.

These people likely don’t understand why I place such an emphasis on longevity. If they knew me personally, maybe they would ask, “Why do you care so much about your friendships and partnerships lasting forever? Why don’t you just let go of that need and be satisfied if you get something that’s good for a couple years and when it ends, just get a replacement? Why can’t you be happy with a bunch of pretty good short-term relationships instead of a few long-term ones?”

Simple. I want long-term, committed relationships with friends because I want unconditional love. When I commit to someone, I’m not committing to the relationship itself so much as I’m making a commitment to love that other person no matter what happens. Staying with someone, a friend or a partner, is about loyalty, sure. Loyalty’s important. It’s a great character trait and one that I want to possess. But more important than loyalty, more important than keeping a promise or commitment for it’s own sake, more important than anything is love.

There are only two kinds of love: conditional and unconditional. That’s the bottom line.

Conditional love says: “Do what I want you to do, make me feel good, and then I’ll love you. As soon as you quit behaving yourself for me, as soon as it’s not effortless to feel good with you, I don’t love you anymore.”

Unconditional love is: “I love you. Not because of anything you do or say or feel. I love you because I choose to love you. I love you because love feels good to me. You don’t have the power to take my love away, nor does any event in our relationship.”

Here’s the thing: it’s easy to love someone when they’re acting the way you want and giving you everything you want and when nothing challenging is going on in your life or theirs. It’s easy to love someone when everything around you and between you is going smoothly all by itself. It’s easy to love someone when all you do is have fun together. It’s easy to love someone who’s loving you all the time, just the way you like.

But the love you feel in those circumstances is not unconditional. That love doesn’t require any focus or effort of you. That love doesn’t even necessarily coincide with loyalty or commitment; you’re there loving that person because it’s easy to do so, not because you’ve chosen to be loyal or committed.

Unconditional love is proven through the testing of it. And I’m not just talking about commitment or loyalty in times of trouble. I’m talking about loving someone when it requires your focus, your will, your deliberate intent, your commitment to the feeling of love—not just to the relationship agreement. I’m talking about appreciating another person’s positive aspects and their presence in your life, even when they’ve said or done something you don’t like. I’m talking about forgiving someone when they hurt your feelings or make a mistake. I’m talking about deciding that you’re going to feel good, about yourself and them and the relationship, without asking them to change or behave differently. I’m talking about deciding that you’re going to look at them and feel love—not just say the word, not just intellectually think you love them in the abstract—but feel the emotion of love, because you want to. Not because they did something lovable.

And I’m talking about staying tuned in to that emotion of love, even when something difficult happens in the life you share with the other person. This is especially relevant to primary partnerships/domestic partnerships. When you are someone else’s main source of support, when you’re really in this life together—financially, physically, emotionally, etc—unconditional love keeps you there even when you’re both facing a challenge that makes it harder for you to feel good on a daily basis. Anyone can bail when shit hits the fan. Bailing’s easy. Leaving the problem with your friend is easy. Moving on to someone else who’s in a better situation is easy. Staying and making the best of things and being happy with your imperfect circumstances requires love. Your love, your positive focus. Not your partner’s or anyone else’s.

If you’re young and figuring out what you want or if you don’t have any interest in long-term primary partnerships or you’re not yet ready to commit to somebody, that’s all well and good, but if you do want a long-term partnership of some kind, you need to realize that there is no perfect person, there is no guarantee of a problem-free life or problem-free partnership for anyone on the planet, and your happiness is not dependent on anyone except you. You’re not going to find someone who’s flawless, who’s always well-behaved by your standards, who never makes mistakes and never challenges your patience. You’re not going to ever find a relationship that’s sunshine and rainbows all day every day forever. You cannot prevent challenging things from happening to you or any other person in the future, so you aren’t going to meet someone whose life is guaranteed to be always smooth and easy and comfortable that you can effortlessly participate in. None of that shit exists.

So, at some point, you either decide that you’re going to be committed to someone you do love and stick it out when shit temporarily sucks, or you just never experience a long-term partnership. If you can’t be loving and loyal to another person even when it’s hard as fuck, you aren’t long-term partner material. If you’re waiting for someone else to please you all the time or most of the time and you make your commitment conditional upon that, you are not long-term partner material.

Having a happy, loving, satisfying, long-term partner isn’t about finding the perfect person. It’s about finding a person you adore who has flaws and bullshit you can live with indefinitely. Personal growth and improvement happens; human perfection doesn’t. The happy long-term partnership isn’t about bitterly resigning to the other person’s flaws or bitching about them until something changes. It isn’t the denial of romantic infatuation that goes, “This person is perfect in every way!” It’s loving acceptance that sounds like, “Yeah, I know my partner is weak in those ways, but that’s okay. Not a big deal. They have so many positive qualities, that I don’t mind the negative ones, and I’m not going to pay the negative ones much attention.”

And here’s the flaw in logic that all those people who say “leave unhappy relationships no matter what, commitment is bullshit!” fail to understand: being happy in a long-term, committed partnership or friendship is not about your partner pleasing you or life being perfect. It’s about you deciding to be happy. That’s all. The only thing happiness takes is your intent and focus. Sure, it’s easier to be happy with someone when everything’s exactly the way you want it to be, but when things are not the way you want, you still have the power and the capability to be happy anyway.

I’m not saying, “Stay in a miserable, unfulfilling partnership/friendship until you die.” I’m saying, “Find a way to be happy independent of the conditions and partner changing.” There’s a huge difference. Happiness is the only thing that matters, you should be happy, you deserve to be happy, but you don’t need anything or anyone to be a certain way in order to feel happiness. Most people believe that happiness is a reaction, so if something isn’t pleasing to them, they have no choice but to leave the situation and go find a better one. But we have so much more power than that—power to emotionally focus ourselves however we want, power to think better-feeling thoughts instead of wallowing in a negative loop, power to distract ourselves from conditions that feel bad, power to find the good in everything and everyone.

I want long-term partnerships and intimate friendships because I want to feel unconditional love for other people and I want to receive it from them. I want domestic life partners who I’m passionate friends with because I want the sweetness and fun and love of sharing home with them, and I want long-term loving friendships because I want to just keep mining them for more joy and more fun and more affection and more intimacy and more connection and more growth. I want my relationships to last forever because I want to love forever because love is the best feeling in the world. I want my life partnerships to last forever because I want to show myself and my partners that I can be unconditionally loving, that I can love them and be happy with them no matter what’s going on, that I can find the good in them over and over again.

I know that I am capable of being committed to my domestic life partners and my intimate friends until I die, regardless of the conditions. I know I am. And I want to do it. I am 100% serious, and I would never make a commitment to someone otherwise. Of course, I prefer it if my life and my relationships are mostly easy and comfortable and smooth, just like everyone else. But I’m not afraid of challenges in my partnerships or other friendships, because I know that I can feel love anyway, and if my partners and friends want to stay with me, I’ll never back down. I sure as hell would never abandon someone I love when they’re going through a tough time.

I’m not interested in marriage, the relationships I desire are nonromantic, but I want to say to my life partners and my other beloved friends (and really mean it):

“I love you, and I’m going to love you until I check out of this world. I adore you, just as you are. I take responsibility for my own feelings and my own happiness, so you’re off the hook there. I’m going to look for the positive aspects in you and in our relationship as much as I can, and I’m not going to ask you to change for me. I will always forgive you and I will always do my best to show you kindness and love and respect and I will promote your freedom and independence unconditionally. I love you so much that I’ll let go of things that don’t matter. I love you whether you have money or not, whether you have a job or not, whether you’re healthy or sick, whether you’re happy or unhappy, whether you agree with me or disagree with me, whether we’re together every day or not. I love you no matter what you look like. I love you, and I’m going to always make the best of everything and try to nurture positive energy between us, even if it takes work. And I will get bucked off the horse more than once, I’m sure, but I am not going to give up in a moment where I feel anything less than blissful love. If I feel bad, I’m going to find a way to make myself feel better, and then I’ll give you and our relationship my attention again.

And I want you to hold me to this unconditional love. I want you to remind me when I forget, that this is what I want and this is what I signed up for.”

So, do I think that people should stay in toxic, unethical, or abusive friendships and partnerships? No. Of course not. But there’s a difference between a rotten relationship and an imperfect relationship that challenges you sometimes. I refuse to live my life as someone who’s only committed to a partner or friend if it’s effortless to follow through with that commitment. If life wants to test my love and commitment in my partnerships and friendships, I’ll welcome it from the standpoint of wanting to master unconditional love. You never get good at anything without practice.

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A Loving Reflection on Passionate Friendship

Ever since I was a child, I’ve felt that passionate friendship is the most beautiful form of human love and relationship possible. It doesn’t matter anymore what name I use or what name other people use: romantic friendship, queerplatonic relationship, passionate friendship, primary friendship, platonic life partnership, sensual friendship, some combination of those or none of them at all.

It is the idea of a friendship between two people—without sex or sexual attraction, without romantic attraction or attachment—that is so passionate, full of overwhelming love, intimate and emotional and sensually physical, deep and powerful and spiritual, a bond so strong that it cannot be broken or resisted except through death and even death cannot extinguish the love and desire still felt by the living friend for the departed. It is a friendship that is also a partnership: a primary partnership, a domestic partnership, a family tie no different than legal or religious marriage, a relationship that is the source of committed companionship and support and care and love, a relationship that matters so much that both friends will prioritize its survival.

I just love and adore the idea of two people choosing this kind of relationship for their primary partnership or one of their life partnerships, rejecting traditional romance and even sex, rejecting traditional marriage and the nuclear family and the whole concept of primary romantic-sexual relationships, and instead living their lives in a passionate friendship that takes them to the heights of love and emotional intimacy and spiritual intimacy and even physical intimacy that does not intersect with genital sex.

I love the idea of passionate friends being primary life partners and domestic life partners, sharing a home and a future and being there for each other always.

I love the idea of passionate friendship families and networks, of people being so blessed as to have more than one passionate friend in life and allowing their friends to have other passionate friendships if they occur. I love the idea of families and tribes made of friendship, of nonromantic and nonsexual love and commitment.

I love how passionate and sensual nonsexual/nonromantic physical intimacy can be: how much you can desire and adore someone else’s body and their physical closeness to you, without sex and without romantic attraction, how much pleasure you can experience physically in a nonsexual/nonromantic relationship. I love that passionate friends can hug and cuddle and kiss and hold hands and caress each other and kiss each other’s body and even be together almost naked and experience a deep, pleasurable, sensual, intensely intimate and loving physical connection with each other from a place of nonsexual, nonromantic love. I love that they can love each other and desire each other and share pleasure and connect because of an emotional attraction, not romantic attraction, from spiritual and sensual attraction, not sexual attraction. I love that they live and prove how much love and intimacy and touch and pleasure is possible outside of sex and romance.

I love people who want passionate friendship and who want their primary life partner to be a passionate friend and who don’t need romance or who don’t even need sex to be happy. I love people who have sex but want a passionate friendship instead of a primary sexual partner. I love people whose ultimate idea of happiness is to have a lifelong passionate friend who they live with and love. I love people who see and appreciate passionate friendship as the greatest form of love and relationship because they just value and prioritize and love friendship in general that much.

I want to be surrounded by these people: by perpetually single aromantics, by people who desire and dream about and choose nonromantic/nonsexual life partners, by people who have passionate friendship and know what it is and value it as the most important relationship in their lives, by sexual people whose desire and appreciation for sex is nothing in comparison to their desire and appreciation for friendship—especially primary friendships, loving and passionate and committed friendships, queerplatonic friendship, romantic friendship. I want to be surrounded by people who revere loving friendship the way I do, who respect it and love it and prize it and desire it and create it and protect it and feel unspeakable joy flowing through them when they’re living that friendship. I want to love and be friends with these people who feel the way I do about friendship and love, who will marvel at the sacred event of true and loving friendship that reaches these levels of passion and love and intimacy and connection, who will desire me and love me and admire me and appreciate me because I am who I am and I feel the way I do about friendship. I want to love and be friends with these people whose greatest happiness is in passionate friendship and romantic friendship and queerplatonic friendship. I want to love and be friends with these people who are capable and ready and eager to experience complete emotional openness and connection, physical and sensual intimacy, love and affection, care and tenderness in friendship.

I want to spend the rest of my life in two passionate friendships, with my male partner and my female partner. I want to love them with every particle of my body and soul. I want to care for them and appreciate them and support them always. I want to love them unconditionally. I want to have fun with them and always see the best in them. I want to share beautiful domestic lives with them. I want my love and appreciation for them to deepen and grow and intensify as time passes. I want to open myself completely to them: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically. I want the bliss of physical, sensual intimacy with them: I want to hug them every day and cuddle them and touch them with love in my hands, I want to kiss their mouths and their bodies, I want to look into their eyes with pure love in my own, I want to let go and allow them to touch me and hold me and kiss me and love me and my body, I want us to sleep side by side some nights, I want us to spend hours in bed together stripped to our underwear—just touching and kissing and holding each other and basking in the love we feel for each other. I want to love them and stand by them no matter what happens in our lives. I want us to always find our love for each other, even as we evolve individually and rediscover each other’s new incarnations. I want us to be kind to each other, sweet and gentle and supportive and nurturing. I want us to love each other unceasingly, no matter what the physical or material conditions: as we age, as our bodies change, no matter what our health or wealth statuses are, no matter who else we’re friends with and who else we love, no matter how many days or months of the year we spend physically apart, I want to love them and I want to feel their love for me unchanged and sure of itself. I want these two people in my life until the day I die, and on that day, I want to look back on my life and feel blissful that I loved them so well and was so well-loved in return.

I raised myself through childhood and adolescence in devotion to friendship, and now I am an adult and my desire and passion and admiration for it is stronger than it’s ever been. I know more about it than I did when I was younger but not as much as I’ll know when I’m older. I know my incredible worth as a friend and a partner, and I want to give all of this love and affection and care I possess to my own passionate friends, my life partners, and the other queerplatonic/romantic/sensual/intimate friends I make throughout my life. I am sure that I am the passionate friend and partner that some wonderful man and wonderful woman desire more than anything, and I’m sure that there are other people who want someone like me for a loving friend too. And I am ready for them. I am so ready.

I dedicate myself to this practice of loving, high friendship the way priests and monks dedicate themselves to God. Friendship is my own way to spiritual enlightenment, to the cosmic source I believe in, to my higher self. Friendship is what will teach me love, hold me in love, call me back to love when I’ve disconnected from it. Loving friendship is my bliss, my heaven, my passion. Friendship is my holy love. The cosmic source I believe in is nothing but pure, unconditional, eternal love—and the friendship I desire and adore is that too.

I am forever thankful that my asexuality and aromanticism enhance and support and nourish my devotion to friendship, my desire for passionate friends who are also my partners, and my capacity to love and care in friendship and to treat friends as my social and emotional priority. I would not be the person or the friend I am without asexuality and aromanticism. I would not believe in and desire passionate friendship with so much intensity if I were not asexual and aromantic, and for that reason alone, I am so happy and thankful that I am exactly as I am.

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On Sex-Indifference vs. Sex-Aversion & Sex-Repulsion

This post is a response to the July Carnival of Aces, the theme of which was “sex-repulsion/sex-aversion.

I’ve written plenty on this blog about sex-repulsion/sex-aversion and its intersection with asexuality, and I will continue to spotlight those experiences and those particular asexuals because it is vitally important for sex-repulsion/sex-aversion to be supported, accepted, and represented both in and outside of the asexual community. I want sexual society to know that the majority of asexuals are sex-repulsed or sex-averse and do not want to have sex with anyone ever, and I want to live in a world where not having sex and not wanting sex are equally as acceptable as sexual activity. I want to dismantle compulsory sexuality and sex supremacy in our society, and promoting sex-repulsed/sex-averse asexuals is key to achieving that goal. I also want to contribute to an asexual community that supports, protects, and nurtures the sex-repulsed and sex-averse and celibate, because asexual spaces should be the one place where those aces are safe, heard, and empowered.

I read one of the other submissions to this month’s Carnival, and I have to respond to it because it raises a great point that is personally relevant to me. Sara K. over at thenoteswhichdonotfit pointed out how common it is for both asexuals and allosexuals to lump sex-indifferent aces in with sex-favorable aces, to the point where the sex-indifferent asexuals are expected to have sex, to enjoy it, or at least to be willing to have sex with any and every allosexual romantic partner who comes along. I confess that I’ve fallen into the habit of viewing self-identified sex-indifferent asexuals as categorically willing to have sex if they have to in order to be in a romantic relationship with an allosexual, and because of this view, I’ve generally felt like sex-indifferent aces are distanced from the experiences of sex-repulsed and sex-averse asexuals.

I think part of the problem is how we define “sex-indifferent” vs. “sex-repulsed” and “sex-averse” and “sex-favorable.” Taken at face value, “indifferent” indicates neutrality, which is very different from “aversion” and “repulsion.” Indifferent, to me (and obviously to a lot of other aces), means that you don’t have a problem with sex to a point where you would be unable to comfortably participate in it. I think of sex-indifferent asexuals as people who could certainly live without sex forever, who may prefer not to have sex, who would be happy to be in nonsexual romantic or nonromantic relationships if they get that chance, but who will pretty much always submit to an allosexual partner’s desire for sex rather than firmly refusing and who won’t be upset by sex emotionally or psychologically.

Sara makes a great point though, when she says:

“The point I do want to make is that, under compulsory sexuality, you need a *reason* to opt out of sex rather than a reason to opt-in in the first place, and the assumptions made about sex-indifferent aces are made because we have not provided a reason for opting-out.”

This is definitely true from the perspective of the average allosexual: if you can have sex without crying or having a panic attack or wanting to die, and certainly if you can have sex that is physically pleasurable/orgasmic, you should be doing it. That’s the gist of compulsory sexuality. There is no good reason NOT to have sex, as far as sexual society is concerned. Even asexuality isn’t a good reason, to a lot of people; it’s something to be “cured” and “overcome” because life without sex isn’t worth living.

I’m one of those semi-rare asexuals who tirelessly defend the asexual person’s right to reject sex, even within a mixed romantic relationship, and who thinks there is no good God damn reason why it should always or even mostly be the asexual’s responsibility to sacrifice on the sexual front to make a partner happy, instead of the allosexual partner becoming celibate to make their asexual partner happy. Sometimes, I feel like a lone voice howling in the void about nonsexual romantic relationships being possible and something that all asexuals have a right to ask for, no matter who their partner is. The default assumption is that romantic asexuals must date allosexuals because they outnumber aces and that “compromise” (I cannot express how much I fucking hate that word) amounts to the asexual having sex.

So, yes, sex-indifferent aces should be able to say “no” to sex just as often as sex-repulsed and sex-averse aces, and we shouldn’t–as a community–give sexual society the impression that you can fuck all the sex-indifferent aces.

 

I consider myself and have been telling the world for a while that I am sex-averse, because I think that’s a softer term than “sex-repulsed” and more accurate a descriptor for my attitudes toward sex. A lot of sex-repulsed aces can’t be exposed to any kind of sexual content, let alone be put in sexual or potentially sexual situations, without feeling physically ill or otherwise viscerally disgusted, horrified, etc. Some sex-repulsed aces experience dysphoria toward their own genitals or their sex drive and arousal. Some sex-repulsed aces can’t think about themselves having sex without feeling super uncomfortable. All of that is okay. I myself am nowhere near that uncomfortable with sex and sexuality, which is why I use the term “sex-averse” rather than “sex-repulsed.” I use that term “sex-averse” to communicate the fact that I am not willing to have partnered sex of any kind, and that I feel strongly about long-term celibacy. I am sex-averse because I would never remotely consider having sex to please or keep an allosexual partner.

But I’m also an asexual with an active libido, who masturbates on a regular basis, who is totally comfortable with my own body, my genitals, the fact that I experience arousal, etc. I’m an asexual who’s been using porn since I was a kid, in all of its forms. I’m an asexual who can be around other people engaging in sexual activity or who are talking explicitly about sex and not have a problem at all. I can talk about and think about and imagine sex in graphic terms and be comfortable. Even sexual or erotic type acts that I find off-putting—like open-mouthed kissing with tongue or blow jobs or BDSM sex—don’t make me all that uncomfortable, certainly not to the point of panic or tears or strong disgust. (Making out’s pretty gross, but I’m not going to freak out if I see it.) I can have sexual fantasies involving myself and enjoy them as arousal material for when I need to masturbate.

I’m also really, really interested in heavily sensual physical intimacy, in the context of intimate and loving friendships. I want to explore physical affection and touch to a point of nonsexual/nongenital eroticism. I don’t know what I’ll like or how much I’ll like it or what I’ll be comfortable vs. uncomfortable with, but I’m open to pretty much everything under the umbrella of “nongenital/nonsexual physical intimacy” except for making out. Hugging, cuddling, caressing, massages, co-sleeping, kissing the body, maybe kissing the mouth, nonsexual body worship, etc. I’m significantly more open and enthusiastic to sensual physicality than a lot of other asexuals and aromantics are, as far as I can tell. (Assuming, of course, that I’m with a friend I can trust not to pressure me into sex, either because they are asexual or not sexually attracted to me/my gender.)

Yet I won’t have partnered sex. And I have several reasons for this.

First and foremost, sex is obviously not intuitive to me because I’m asexual. I’m not naturally motivated to seek it out. I don’t need it to be happy or to feel connected to another person or to feel loved. It’s like any other activity that I have no interest in: why the hell would I say yes to doing something I’m not interested in? I wouldn’t go skydiving to please a friend, and I sure as hell won’t fuck to please a friend either.

Second, I can easily satisfy my libido through masturbation, and masturbation is infinitely easier, safer, and more comfortable than partnered sex could ever be. Masturbation happens on my terms, and I never have to worry about STDs/STIs or unwanted pregnancy. Not having sex with other people makes life easier. It’s also much safer, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to avoiding sexual abuse and assault by partners; fuck if I trust sexual people on the whole to be consistently ethical and respectful toward asexuals in a sexual context. That trustworthiness must be proven on an individual basis, and until it is proven, I wouldn’t recommend any asexual who is less than sex-favorable all the time to give an allosexual the impression that they are sexually available in the same way that allosexuals are.

Third, there are definitely some sex acts I know I would not want to perform on another person or with another person, because they do gross me out a little bit. Making out, which isn’t even sexual, grosses me out, and there’s no way I would want to do that with anyone.

Fourth, having nonsexual relationships is really important to me. I’m somewhere on the aromantic spectrum, and friendship has always been the ideal love to me. I know sexual friendship is a thing that exists, but I’ve always conceived of perfect friendship as this nonsexual, nonromantic relationship that has the most passion, love, intimacy, emotion, touch, and commitment possible between two human beings. That, to me, is the most beautiful and desirable relationship that could ever exist. I would never want to be in a traditionally romantic relationship, and I would also never want sex to be part of the most important and emotional relationships in my life. The ideal friendship, in my mind, is special in part because it is nonsexual. To be profoundly connected and intimate with someone, emotionally and physically and spiritually and mentally, without wanting or needing sex (or romance) in that relationship is really special and unique. Romantic-sexual relationships are the most common in the world, but a passionate friendship is rare to the point that I don’t believe everyone capable of it. I don’t want to be friends with someone who loves me because they want to fuck me or because they do fuck me, and I don’t want sex to be a reason that my important friendship(s) are important.

Fifth, sex cannot be used as a tool to build the relationships I actually want. This ties in with my desire and definition of ideal friendship. Maybe if I wanted traditional romantic relationships, I would be more willing to use sex as a tool, because it is a tool for building and securing romantic relationships. But I want passionate friendship and other queerplatonic friendships. Sex is totally antithetical to passionate friendship, and while it can technically exist in other QP friendships, in a world dominated by alloromantic allosexuals only aware of and interested in normative romantic-sexual relationships, sex is only something you use to build those normative romantic relationships, not to build a QP friendship.

Basically, the benefits of celibacy far outweigh any benefits of having sex. There’s no good reason for me to bother having sex with anyone.  Having sex can’t give me anything I actually want, that I can’t give myself anyway.

 

Now, given my reasons for celibacy and my feelings about sexuality, maybe “sex-indifferent” is a more accurate label for me than “sex-averse,” according to some people’s definitions. But the fact is, most sex-indifferent aces I’ve encountered in the last 8+ years are having sex or will have sex in romantic relationships, and most sex-repulsed/sex-averse aces aren’t having sex and won’t have sex ever, even if that means forgoing the relationships they want. So, I gravitate significantly to the “sex-averse” term and to the portion of the asexual population that’s sex-repulsed. There are a lot of reasons why I feel unable to connect or relate to large portions of the asexual community, and my celibacy is one of them, though not necessarily the most divisive difference. I just feel like there’s no way any sexually active ace, whether indifferent or favorable, can fully understand what it’s like to be a person who doesn’t have sex and won’t have sex and specifically wants nonsexual love and relationships in this hyper-sexual world. Even if sex-repulsed people, asexual and allosexual, are a lot less comfortable with sexuality in the abstract than I am, they know what it’s like to be celibate long-term and to want nonsexual relationships and attempt to form them.

That said, I do agree with Sara K. that people should understand a lot of sex-indifferent aces don’t want to have sex and won’t have it, and that for them the term “sex-indifferent” means being comfortable with sexuality as a concept or as content exclusive to the self, rather than “indifferent to participating in sex with other people and therefore open to it.”

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Filed under Celibate Asexuality, Language & Terminology, Personal, Sexuality

Information and Resources for Cousin Couples and Sibling Sexuality

So, on several occasions, people have found my blog through Google search terms about sexual attraction to cousins, sexual behavior with cousins, and even sexual attraction/behavior with siblings. (They’re clicking on my post about passionate/queerplatonic/romantic friendship between siblings and cousins, I’m sure.) In light of this, I thought I’d briefly post some resources for people who have these experiences.

 

Please note that when I say the following, I’m talking about consensual, ethical sexual relationships between adults who have a completely safe and healthy dynamic between them psychologically and emotionally. Plenty of sexual interactions between cousins, siblings, and other family members are abusive in some way: emotionally, physically, psychologically, etc. They are unethical because of power imbalances that make enthusiastic, ethical consent impossible or because there is manipulation, codependency, emotional blackmail, etc. That is NOT the kind of sexual relationship between cousins and/or siblings I’m discussing here, nor do I support such relationships–because of the abuse and the fundamentally unethical status of them, not because of the biological relatedness.

If you think you’re being abused by a relative, please seek help as soon as you can. If you are underage and being sexually victimized by an adult sibling, cousin, or other relative, please tell someone you can trust and report the abuse to police if you can.

That said, it is possible to have a non-abusive, consensual sexual relationship with a cousin or even a sibling. People have been having romantic and/or sexual relationships with first cousins (and every other degree of cousin) since the beginning of time, all over the world. They’ve been very, very common throughout history. Romantic/sexual relationships between cousins became taboo in the Western world during the 19th and early 20th centuries because of shitty science and scary propaganda, basically.

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re an adult and your cousin or even sibling is an adult and you have no history of abuse between you, there’s no power imbalance in your relationship, and you’re mutually sexually attracted to each other, it’s your business if you want have a sexual and/or romantic relationship. There is no rational or even scientific reason why consensual sex between cousins or siblings is problematic. If you’re not hurting each other in any way, if you both want it, then there’s no good, objective reason why you shouldn’t do what you want or why you should feel guilty about it.

Keep in mind, however, that you are likely to be rejected and severely judged by other family members, friends, and society in general if you tell anyone that you’re sexually and/or romantically involved with a cousin or sibling. Unless you know it’s safe to be open about your sexual relationship with a cousin or sibling, I don’t recommend telling other people about it, if you can help it.

 

People who object to consensual incest and consensual cousin sexuality usually cite genetic mutations in offspring as a reason why it’s a bad idea or immoral, but this misses several points:

1. Not all cousin/cousin or sibling/sibling sexual relationships are heterosexual.

2. There’s this cool thing called contraception.

3. Some cousin/cousin or sibling/sibling sexual relationships don’t even start until after the people in question are past childbearing age.

4. Cousins who want to have children can go to a genetic counselor prior to trying to have kids, just like anyone else. You can find out pretty easily what the odds are of you and your partner conceiving children with physical and/or mental handicaps, then make an informed decision about whether or not you want to try conceiving.

5. In reality, for first cousins who are a heterosexual couple and have children, the general chance of their kids being genetically sick or handicapped is 5-6%. Compare that to the odds of an unrelated couple having genetically sick/handicapped children, which is 2-3%, and you can see that the increase is not at all significant or dramatic. At least 95% of all children born to first cousin couples will be healthy, physically and mentally. (Fun fact, according to geneticists, cousins don’t share enough genetic material in common for their sexual relationships to be labeled “incestuous.” No, not even first cousins.) Source 1, Source 2, Source 3

6. There are first cousin couples who are actually together, married or unmarried, all over America. Most of them are in the closet, meaning few people know they’re cousins. They have healthy kids, normal lives, etc. You wouldn’t even know they’re related, unless they told you.

7. Sexual exploration between cousins and even siblings in childhood is more common than you think–and I’m talking about non-abusive, consensual exploration between kids who are in the same age group. There are even first cousins who first feel sexual attraction to each other in youth and later on in adulthood still feel it and end having a sexual relationship of some kind.

 

The general public basically knows jack shit about cousin/cousin sexuality and sibling sexuality, from a scientific and genetic perspective. Most of what people believe about this sexual behavior is false and based on nothing other than popular assumption. A lot of people experience sexual attraction or interaction with cousins in childhood and adulthood and just don’t say anything about it because it’s taboo in our society; if more people admitted to it, I think we’d all be surprised how often it happens. Sibling sexuality is a lot less common in non-abusive contexts, but there are adult siblings out there who are sexually attracted to each other and having sex, typically in a situation of genetic sexual attraction occurring after childhood separation.

Something important to understand here is the Westermarck Effect; Wikipedia describes it this way:

The Westermarck effect, or reverse sexual imprinting, is a hypothetical psychological effect through which people who live in close domestic proximity during the first few years of their lives become desensitized to later sexual attraction. This phenomenon, one explanation for the incest taboo, was first hypothesized by Finnish anthropologistEdvard Westermarck in his book The History of Human Marriage (1891). Observations interpreted as evidence for the Westermarck effect have since been made in many places and cultures, including in the Israelikibbutz system, and the Chinese Shim-pua marriage customs, as well as in biological-related families…..

When proximity during this critical period does not occur — for example, where a brother and sister are brought up separately, never meeting one another — they may find one another highly sexually attractive when they meet as adults or adolescents, according to the hypothesis of genetic sexual attraction. This supports the theory that the populations exhibiting the Westermarck effect became predominant because of the deleterious effects of inbreeding on those that didn’t.

So basically, if you and a cousin or you and a sibling do not grow up together, particularly if you were not together during the first 6 years of your life, there is a much greater chance that if you meet each other as adults, you’ll be sexually attracted to each other. It’s happened that adult siblings who grew up apart and didn’t even know they had a sibling ended up meeting each other, falling in love, feeling sexually attracted to each other, and becoming a couple–all without knowing they were related. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3) And even once they do know, their attraction–sexual, emotional, romantic–remains in tact. According to a study published in 1980 that surveyed 796 college students in six New England schools, 15% of females and 10% of males reported having some kind of sexual experience with a sibling, and of those sexual experiences, only 25% could be described as “exploitative” based on use of force (lack of consent) or a large age disparity  between siblings. (Source) If we could actually do a large national study across age categories, who knows how common sibling sexuality would prove to be.

If you find yourself sexually attracted to a cousin or sibling, or if you’re already in a consensual sexual relationship with a cousin or sibling, you are not a freak and you are not alone. You’re not crazy or sick. You’re certainly outside acceptable social norms, but that doesn’t mean you’re abnormal as far as nature’s concerned. If genetic sexual attraction were truly abnormal, it wouldn’t be as common as it is and always has been.

 

There aren’t too many resources for cousins and/or siblings who are sexually attracted to each other or involved, but here’s what I can offer.

Books:

Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage by Martin Ottenheimer

I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s supposed to be a pretty good argument in favor of cousin marriage becoming legalized and generally accepted by society. The author is a social anthropologist who examines both the laws against cousins marriage and the genetics of cousin procreation.

Cousins: A Unique and Powerful Bond by Johanna Garfield

This book is one of my favorites; it covers the full spectrum of cousin relationships, good, bad, neutral, etc. There is a chapter that focuses on sexual attraction between cousins, but that’s not the primary focus of the book. It does a great job of portraying how wonderful, powerful, and loving cousin relationships can be (nonsexually and nonromantically).

 

Websites:

Cousin Couples — A lot of resources and information for cousin couples here. There’s a message board too.

Full Marriage Equality Blog — I don’t necessarily agree with everything the author of this blog believes in and supports, but there are some resources on the website for people who are sexually attracted to/involved with a cousin or sibling. If nothing else, it will show you that you’re not alone in your experiences.

 

 

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A Gospel Truth Quote

Romantic love, as we understand it, is a colonial construct. It is an all-consuming, possessive, lifelong, monogamous endeavor that works to sustain capitalism and white supremacist heteropatriarchy via the nuclear family. We are told that this romantic love is essential, shaping it as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Were we to sustain ourselves on self-love, platonic love, and love of community, what could change? We could see the beauty of our interdependence, rather than individuals competing for higher wages and standards of living at the expense of each other. The formation of families, rather than communities, creates hierarchies of which people are worthy and deserving of our attention, protection and devotion. With a restructuring of romantic love as comparable to community/platonic/self-love, we begin to prioritize the care and livelihood of entire larger groups of people as equally important as our romantic partner/s.

 

– Caleb Luna, “On Being Fat, Brown, Femme, Ugly, and Unloveable”

 

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July 23, 2014 · 4:56 pm

Clarification on Arousal as a Result of Physical Intimacy

So, I feel like I need to write a post in response to a search term that someone used to find my blog, about a passionate friendship becoming so physical that it leads to sexual stimulation (without actual sex). This has got to do with a subject I’ve written about briefly before: reactive arousal that happens in the middle of being very sensually, physically intimate with someone in a nonsexual context. A lot of asexuals who don’t know much about asexuality yet ask questions pertaining to arousal, so this should be helpful for them whether they have a very sensual friendship with someone or not.

 

Here’s the thing about arousal: it’s involuntary, meaning you can’t control it, and it happens as a response to visual, physical, mental, and sometimes even emotional stimuli that may or may not be sexual/sensual/erotic in nature. Bodies are weird. They can get genitally aroused for no reason at all or for really weird reasons that have nothing to do with sex. Bodies can even get aroused during sexual assault.

Arousal is not sexual attraction. Please, understand this. If your body responds to something or someone with genital arousal but you don’t want to have sex, what you’re experiencing is not sexual attraction to a person or even sexual desire but a purely physical response to something that you can’t control, anymore than you can control when you sweat or shiver or when your pulse speeds up in fear or excitement.

Likewise, if you’re being very physical with someone, if you’re having a sensual encounter that involves stuff like kissing or cuddling or massaging and caressing the body, if your sensual encounter is also very emotional because the person you’re with is someone you love intensely and who loves you too, and you end up experiencing either genital arousal or a physical-but-not-mental desire for sexual release, that’s not sexual attraction between you and your friend. That’s your body responding to a lot of touching and a lot of intimacy.

Passionate friendship is, by nature, nonsexual. It’s not based on or inclusive of sexual attraction. It is not a sexual relationship anymore than it’s a romantic relationship. But I totally acknowledge that some people, whether they’re asexual or allosexual, can and will become aroused with enough affectionate/sensual touch and physical intimacy, and some people feel the need to deal with this arousal through sex. Maybe that means you leave the room and masturbate. Maybe that means you and your friend/partner end up sexually stimulating each other somehow. Maybe that means you each masturbate side by side but don’t touch each other sexually.

If you’re not sexually attracted to your passionate friend but you end up doing something sexual, as a result of a very physical/sensual/intimate encounter that arouses you, I would not question your sexual orientations or the nature of your friendship–unless you come to a decision or realization that you want to have sex with each other on a regular basis. But if, when you aren’t being physically intimate and affectionate with each other, you feel no interest in having sex with each other and you are not sexually attracted to each other, then you can know for sure that the arousal and any erotic/sexual type activities you engage in when you’re physically intimate is simply a natural reaction your bodies are having due to the amount and the kind of touch you’re sharing.

Know that arousal doesn’t obligate you to have sex. You can get aroused and ignore it. Some aces do this, when they happen to get aroused during physical affection with a partner. It’s harder to do if you have a penis but possible no matter what your genitalia. If you’re too uncomfortable with the arousal that happens between you and your passionate friend/romantic friend/queerplatonic friend/romantic asexual partner, then you are free to decide you aren’t going to do certain physical things with each other or you’re going to stop the physical encounter as soon as the arousal becomes too much to ignore. How you handle arousal, as an asexual or as someone in a nonsexual friendship with someone you aren’t sexually attracted to, is completely and totally up to you.

If you get into a pattern with a friend where you end up sexually stimulating each other or yourselves, every time you are physically/sensually intimate and affectionate, what you call the friendship and how you see each other is up to you. I see passionate friendship as totally nonsexual, in both activity and attraction, but queerplatonic relationships–of which passionate friendship is a subset–can be sexual. Queerplatonic relationships are never romantic, but they can be sexual to some degree, if both people in the relationship want it to be.

There’s also such a thing as plain old sexual friendship. Not romantic but caring and maybe even loving. Whether the sex happens because you’re sexually attracted to each other or whether it happens because you start out being super affectionate nonsexually and then get aroused and agree to help each other out somehow, the friendship is only a “couple” relationship if you a) feel romantic attraction to each other or b) decide to label it that way. You don’t have to label it anything, if you don’t want to.

You also get to decide what physical activities are sexual or erotic and which ones aren’t, to you as an individual and in your friendship. Obviously stimulating someone’s genitals or having someone stimulate yours with hands, mouths, sex toys, or your own sexual organs is all sex. But other acts like kissing, whether the mouth or the body, masturbating in each other’s presence, rubbing up against each other or dry humping and other ambiguous physical gestures like that are not always sexual in nature. There’s a lot of sensuality that can exist without sexuality. Plenty of asexuals and even aromantics don’t consider kissing to be sexual, no matter how heavy. Some people can get naked and cuddle or cuddle topless and not see that as a sexual act, but a very sensual and intimate one. As for dry humping, masturbation, and other kinds of rubbing that becomes arousing/leads to orgasm, those are certainly erotic in nature and can be sexual to a degree, but how sexual and what it means to your identity and the feelings you have for a friend are up to you to decide.

Motivation matters, I think, which is what I’ve been trying to get at: doing this stuff because you’re sexually attracted to each other all the time is one thing, and doing it because you’re already being very physical and then get aroused and feel like you need to relieve that arousal is something else.

If your friendship with someone who you aren’t normally sexually attracted to becomes very erotic through physical sensuality or even minimally sexual, don’t freak out and don’t feel like you have to do things you don’t want to do or call the friendship something new. Figure out what you’re comfortable with and then just do that. Identify however you want. If you’re straight but you have a passionate friendship with someone of the same sex and sometimes your physical intimacy arouses you, you’re not obligated to identify as bisexual or queer or homosexual. If you’re asexual and you sometimes engage in sexual stimulation with a friend when you get aroused during physical intimacy, you aren’t less asexual or obligated to identify as an allosexual. You identify however you want to, based on the patterns of sexual attraction you normally experience.

Arousal is not attraction, guys. And it’s possible to have sex with someone you aren’t sexually attracted to, for reasons other than wanting them sexually.

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Asexuality and Pleasure

I’m writing this post for the June Carnival of Aces, which has a theme of “pleasure.”

 

Asexuality is something commonly perceived as antithetical to a variety of relational experiences: polyamory, romance, intimacy, desire, sensuality, and pleasure. 99% of the human population is sexual, and thus we live in a world where most people accept the popular association of these different experiences with sex. According to the sexual majority, not having sex means not experiencing pleasure, romance, intimacy, desire, or sensuality. (Personally, I find this sad because of what it implies about sexual people: that they’re not experiencing any of those things apart from sex.)

The sexual world narrowly defines pleasure as sexual/genital/orgasmic. Like the other commonly sexualized and romanticized words, “pleasure” has a silent “sexual” attached to it that everyone is supposed to hear and be aware of. This belief and way of speaking are problematic for several reasons.


 

1. It implies that all sex is pleasurable.

Not all pleasure is sexual, and not all sex is pleasurable. That’s the bottom line. When you make “pleasure” a definitively and exclusively sexual thing, you’re implying that all sex is pleasurable, which immediately invalidates and threatens sex-repulsed asexuals, sex-indifferent asexuals, sex-repulsed allosexuals, survivors of sexual abuse and rape, people who have medical conditions that make sex painful or uncomfortable, etc. Defining sex as inherently pleasurable places an expectation on people: that every sexual experience they have should feel good to them physically, emotionally, and psychologically, and if sex doesn’t feel good to them, there is something wrong with them rather than the sex.

This is not simply an issue of consent. Consent has nothing to do with pleasure. Consensual sex can be painful, traumatic, abusive, uncomfortable, and unethical. We cannot place the dividing line at  consent and claim that all consensual sex is pleasurable, and any sex that isn’t pleasurable is rape (and therefore, according to mainstream sex-positive followers and most feminists, not even really sex).  Doing so erases sex-repulsed asexuals, sex-indifferent asexuals, and sexual people who do not feel good when they have sex, for physical, emotional, or psychological reasons.

Nor should people who experience sex as pleasurable feel the need or the right to urge people who don’t into seeking a “cure.” Demanding that all human beings not only have sex but experience sex as pleasure is an oppressive form of policing other people’s bodies and sexuality. There is no natural law recorded anywhere, written by some higher power with cosmic authority, that says sex should be pleasurable for everyone all the time. Believing that there is, is the only possible reason that anyone could think sex-repulsion or an inability to feel pleasure through sex needs to be “cured.” And it is a totally irrational reason.


 

2. It fails to understand asexual (and celibate) experiences.

The sexual world imagines asexuality and celibacy as ascetic existence. Not having sex, to them, requires self-deprivation or repression. I’ve written before about how asexual celibacy is fundamentally different from a sexual person’s celibacy, and that difference doesn’t occur to most sexual people when they’re imagining how terrible it must be to live life without having sex. They project onto asexuals what their own experience of celibacy would be, assuming that we would miss out on pleasure in the same ways they would. But celibacy is not deprivation to us. It’s our natural default. It’s the most comfortable way of being for us.

No matter what your orientation, pleasure can be experienced in an infinite number of ways. There’s physical pleasure, emotional pleasure, intellectual pleasure, spiritual pleasure, creative pleasure. There is the pleasure of eating delicious food, of having an excellent conversation, of completing a great piece of art, of making a new friend, of feeling good about your own appearance, etc. None of this pleasure is inaccessible to asexuals.

Pleasure is an important part of human existence, no matter how you want it, and asexuals who do not have sex deserve to experience pleasure on their own terms. Asexuality is not a pleasure desert, even when it is paired with sex-repulsion and celibacy. To equate pleasure with sex is to assume that asexuals neither experience nor desire pleasure, when nothing can be further from the truth. Asexuals desire and experience pleasure physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

For the record, some asexuals have a libido and masturbate. A small portion of the asexual community enjoys partnered sex, too. So it is even inaccurate to believe that asexuality completely excludes genital or sexual pleasure.


 

3. It erases physical and sensual pleasure in nonsexual relationships.

Pleasure and physical, sensual intimacy defined as sexual and orgasmic excludes a vast range of touch. The idea that a nonsexual relationship (romantic or nonromantic) is an essentially nonphysical relationship is so ridiculous, it’s almost laughable. Sexual people, even in their own romantic-sexual relationships, fail to acknowledge and experience nonsexual sensual touch as valuable, possible, and pleasurable. If they’re not having sex or getting ready to have sex, they’re not touching. To them, the only point of intimate or sensual touch, the only appropriate context for it, is sex. That’s the attitude behind those stupid stock photos of angry-looking couples sitting on a bed and facing away from each other that have accompanied articles published about asexuals in the past. You don’t have sex with each other? Well, that must mean you never touch.

In reality, a lot of asexuals desire and enjoy physical touch. A lot of us can be very sensual in a physical way when we feel safe and free and comfortable in a relationship. That goes for aromantic-spectrum people in nonromantic relationships too. Touch is a huge desire and need for me, one of the most important components of a happy friendship. It is emotionally and physically pleasurable. Few things are more pleasurable to me, in fact, than loving physical intimacy.

Ironically, if asexuals miss out on physical pleasure they actually want, it’s usually because sexual people deny us nonsexual touch, affection, and intimacy unless they think sex is in the cards. We say “no” to sex, which is only one kind of physical pleasure, and then sexual people go, “Well, there’s nothing else on the menu, so starve.” To which asexuals respond: “Wait a minute, there’s plenty of other stuff on the menu. Look at all this. Why can’t I have any of this, just because I don’t want that one thing?”

What kind of touch is left, when you take genitals off the table?

Holding hands, hugs, cuddling with clothes on or off, kissing on the mouth, kissing the body, caressing the body, massages, leaning against each other, dancing together, running your fingers through the other person’s hair, biting, squeezing, trailing your fingertips over bare skin, sleeping in the same bed, bathing together, tickling, wrestling, etc.

I figure most romantic-sexual people view most or all of those touches as innately sexual and romantic and would never do them outside of a romantic/sexual relationship or unless the touches were leading up to sex. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the actual abstract nature of the touching or asexuals’ ability to use those touches in nonsexual and/or nonromantic relationships. It’s a mistake in logic that sexual people make: believing that because they can’t imagine being physically intimate or sensual in a nonsexual relationship, that it is simply impossible to do.

In an interesting twist, the nonsexual spectrum of sensual touch may actually be something that (sex-repulsed/celibate) asexuals have access to BECAUSE we don’t have sex. Instead of ignoring nonsexual touch and sensuality in favor of skipping right to genital sex, as many sexual people do, we explore and use those different touches and forms of physical intimacy because it’s all we have. We can take nonsexual physical pleasure in our relationships to heights that the average sexual person will never experience.

Imagine this: I’m in bed with an asexual friend of mine for a few hours. We’re stripped down to our underwear. We cuddle, we kiss each other’s body, we run our hands all over each other’s bare skin, we’re looking into each other’s eyes and smelling each other’s scent and feeling each other breathe. We are emotionally connected to each other on a level that we can’t talk about and don’t need to talk about. We feel as close and intimate with each other as we can possibly be with anyone.

Now, that isn’t sex. There’s no genital stimulation. There’s no sexual orgasm. There’s no lust. But it’s sure as hell pleasure.


 

4. Pleasure is removed from friendship.

There’s often an intersection of sex-related bullshit with romance-related bullshit, and this is one of those times.

So, some friendships are sexual. Some romantic relationships are nonsexual. Romantic friendship is a thing, different from romantic couple relationships, even the nonsexual kind. All of these “alternative” relationships make it clear that the phrase “platonic love” is shitty and problematic.

Nevertheless, equating sex with pleasure often means limiting pleasure to romantic relationships because according to the majority of people:

a) romantic relationships are supposed to be sexual

b) sexual relationships are supposed to be romantic

c) there’s already an attitude that even nongenital touch is sexual and romantic in nature, so don’t do it unless you want to fuck the person you’re touching and/or be in a romantic relationship with them

d) intimacy, passion, sensuality, and desire are all sexualized too and they are connected to pleasure

This means that “pleasure”–if you’re sexual society using that concept as a euphemism for sex–has no place in nonromantic/nonsexual friendship. If you can’t include pleasure, physical or otherwise, in a relationship without also making it sexual and/or romantic, then you are effectively rendering an entire category of relationship less pleasurable than the category that does include sex and romance.

As far as I’m concerned, this is one critical reason why society views friendship as less valuable and desirable than romantic-sexual relationships. Keeping pleasure out of friendship is a tool of the Romantic/Sex-Based Relationship Hierarchy that places romantic-sexual relationships at the top of the hierarchical pyramid. This is getting into the philosophy of human relationships that dates back to Ancient Greece: if the two major measures of a relationship’s value is utility and pleasure, then it logically follows that the more a relationship pleases us or the more we can use a relationship for our personal gain, the more we will value that relationship. I’ve already explained that there is a vast array of pleasure that falls outside the physical and sexual kinds, but human beings place a big emphasis on physical pleasure because it is the most viscerally experienced type. Prohibiting physical pleasure from friendship severely limits its greatest potential value, not to mention its emotional intimacy. Even on a subconscious, mental level, treating “pleasure” as exclusively sexual causes people to think of friendship as less pleasurable or even anti-pleasure, without realizing that they’re thinking that way and why.

We want pleasure. It doesn’t matter if that pleasure is physical, sexual, or emotional. It doesn’t matter if it comes in the form of intense cuddling or deep love or emotional vulnerability shared with another person. Pleasure is one of our priorities, and when it comes to relationships, we will spend the most amount of time and energy pursuing the kind of relationship that will yield us the greatest amount of pleasure. We rank our relationships based on how pleasurable they are, among other things. Creating a set-up where only romantic-sexual relationships provide us the opportunity to experience the physical and emotional pleasure we crave inevitably means that as a society, we view romantic-sexual relationships as superior to all other relationships because nonsexual/nonromantic relationships simply don’t please us as much or as intensely. The bullshit message that romantic-sexual culture blasts into the collective social consciousness all day every day is:

“Friendship can never be as good or as important as romantic-sexual couplehood, because friendship can never be as pleasurable as romantic-sexual couplehood. Why? Because you can’t get sex (or intimacy or sensuality or passion or love) from friendship. You can only get it from romantic-sexual couple relationships. Romantic-sexual couplehood is better than friendship.”

Well. Fuck that with a grizzly bear’s claws.

Not only can get you get pleasure–physical pleasure, emotional pleasure, intellectual pleasure, spiritual pleasure–from nonsexual relationships. You can also get that pleasure from nonromantic relationships. Aromantics, regardless of sexual orientation, can and do experience and create pleasure in their nonromantic friendships, whether the pleasure is sexual or nonsexual. I would like to see more asexuals break free from romantic-sexual society’s false rules limiting pleasure to romantic relationships and start to explore pleasure in nonromantic friendships that already don’t place the burden of sexual expectation onto us. We do not have to do friendship the way romantic-sexual society does it. We do not have to create a bind for ourselves, where the pleasure we want can only be found in romantic relationships that we either can’t find or can’t enjoy because we don’t want to fuck, so we’re left with nothing that we want.

As far as I’m concerned, friendship is the most pleasurable experience in life, and there is no limit to the amount of pleasure that I can experience in friendships, including and especially physical pleasure.


The importance of asexuality (and celibate/nonsexual lifestyles) in the understanding of pleasure cannot be underestimated. Asexuality redefines pleasure as an experience that reaches far beyond genital, orgasmic sex.

The ability to self-determine our own pleasure is a critical part of asexual empowerment and well-being. Instead of submitting to sexual people’s ideas of pleasure, instead of being passive participants, we can and should assert ourselves as people who create and appreciate different kinds of pleasure. Expanding the definition and practice of pleasure, especially physical and interpersonal pleasure, to support sex-repulsed/sex-averse asexuals and other celibate individuals is an expression of asexual agency, asexual power, and asexual ownership of our own bodies.

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Filed under Aromanticism, Celibate Asexuality, Love & Relationships, Sexuality, Touch

I am not your dirty secret

The Thinking Asexual:

This is a very important post about the need to protect, support, and give visibility to sex-repulsed and sex-averse asexuals when educating the masses about asexuality. There’s this really weird tendency that’s cropped up in asexual spaces online the last couple years where sexually active sex-indifferent and sex-enthusiastic aces will actually put down their fellow aces who don’t have sex/don’t want sex, as if they care more about impressing upon sexual people that aces are sexually available to them than they are about liberating asexuals who don’t want to have sex, from compulsory sexuality. It’s fucked up. It’s wrong. I don’t care if certain aces have sex or like sex, but it is absolutely fucking ridiculous for those aces to be the ones at the forefront of visibility and education efforts when the majority of asexuals DO NOT want to have sex ever and are some degree of uncomfortable with it. Yes, asexuality is an orientation defined by attraction rather than by sexual behavior, like all other sexual orientations, but when asexuality–the one and only orientation that’s about NOT experiencing sexual attraction to others–is pushed to become more like the other sexualities, that’s bullshit. It’s symptomatic of internalized compulsory sexuality and a sick need to be validated as “normal” by the sexual majority, when it’s asexuals themselves trying to make that push and silence sex-repulsed/sex-averse asexuals.

My activism is not about assimilation. Fuck assimilation. Asexuals are not and do not have to be and should not want to be identical to sexual people, just so that they can be easily accepted and romanced by those sexual people, without anything changing in our culture regarding attitudes toward sex. I, for one, am not here to be accepted or validated or proclaimed “normal.” I’m here to fucking revolutionize the world, for the better. I’m here to set myself and everyone like me free. I’m here to improve the world, not perpetuate the shitty status quo.
I’m an asexual, I’m a virgin, I’m committed to lifelong celibacy, and I don’t care who you are, I won’t fuck you. And I don’t give a shit what you think about that.

Originally posted on The Asexual Agenda:

Content warnings: mentions of sexual violence, but no specifics

Fellow aces, we need to have a discussion about how we treat sex-averse and sex-repulsed aces.  Sex-repulsed and sex-averse aces are by no means a minority in the community–according to the AAW census, 65% of asexuals, 51% of grey-As, and 37% of demisexuals are either “somewhat repulsed” or “completely repulsed.”  And yet, as several people have pointed out recently, sex-repulsed and sex-averse aces are consistently viewed almost as a dirty secret the community should be ashamed of.”  This treatment of sex-repulsed aces goes hand in hand with a series of ideas: Being indifferent is the Real Way to be ace.  If you’re sex-repulsed, there’s something wrong with you, and you need to see a medical professional.  If you’re sex-repulsed because of experiences of trauma or sexual violence, then you definitely need to see a medical professional and sit…

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Why Positive Nonromantic Sex is Important

Creating and contributing to an environment where safe, ethical, positive nonromantic sex can happen is important to me. I’m a celibate asexual who only wants to create nonsexual/nonromantic relationships with people, so why do I care about casual and friendly sex? Because we can’t have a liberated society that offers everyone flexibility and the power to find the kind of lifestyle best for them, without supporting nonromantic sex, just like we can’t have that kind of society without supporting voluntary celibacy, asexuality, and sex-repulsion. I care about casual and friendly sex because I care about aromantic allosexuals and their right to be respected, supported, understood, and empowered. I care about casual and friendly sex because I want to dismantle the romance supremacist, amatonormative, pro-monogamy system of relationships currently installed in our culture. I care about nonromantic sex because I care about freedom.

The sex I’m talking about in this post is any sex that happens outside of a romantic relationship. That covers casual sex between strangers or acquaintances, one-night stands, sexual friendships, sex work, sex had with third parties in an open romantic relationship, sex had between two people who are casually dating but not yet a couple, etc.

Supporting nonromantic sex matters because aromantic sexual people matter. Supporting nonromantic sex matters because varioriented sexual people–those with mismatched romantic and sexual orientations–matter. Supporting nonromantic sex matters because nonmonogamous sexual people matter.  Supporting nonromantic sex matters because sexual people who choose to have sex outside of their romantic relationship with a sex-repulsed asexual partner, matter.

Anyone who wants to have sex outside of a romantic relationship should be able to comfortably, safely, and freely do it. I am not saying I think everyone who has sex should have nonromantic sex. If you only want to have sex in romantic relationships, that is your choice and you’re entitled to make it. But if you are someone who wants to have nonromantic sex, then you should be able to do it safely, easily, and comfortably. You should be able to do it without catching judgment from other sexual people who want to police your sexuality, your body, your relationships, and your life.

Our cultural attitudes toward sex are complex and multi-faceted, and I’m not pretending that the choice to have nonromantic sex, even if you strongly desire it, is simple or isolated from bullshit like sexism, racism, misogyny, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, fat shaming, rape culture, abuse, slut shaming, sexual illness, etc. But the goal should be to destroy that bullshit, not avoid nonromantic sex altogether while the bullshit stays in tact. Nonromantic sex is tied to a lot of problematic, prejudiced thinking, which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to create a world where nonromantic sex is supported.

Yes, a lot of nonromantic sex that happens today is harmful–but that isn’t because nonromantic sex is, by nature, destructive or dangerous or unhealthy. It’s because people are abusive, unethical, rude assholes. It is not the fault of casual sex if you treat someone you fucked like garbage. It is not the fault of casual sex if you’re too stupid or too selfish to wear a condom. It is not the fault of casual sex if you fail to monitor your own sexual health. Your bad behavior, your prejudices, and your irresponsibility are your fault. It is possible to have healthy, ethical, satisfying sex that is respectful of everyone involved.

See, I’m not just saying nonromantic sex should be accepted. I’m saying that nonromantic sex should hold all sexually active people to a higher standard of conduct. I’m saying good nonromantic sex can only happen between people who are ethical and respectful, who care about their sexual partners’ well-being, and who take responsibility for their own actions. I’m saying good nonromantic sex only happens between people who are willing to communicate with each other. Good nonromantic sex depends upon a lot of things that everyone, including people who only have romantic sex or who don’t have sex at all, should be practicing in their daily life.

Creating a culture where nonromantic sex is truly supported and where people are taught how to do it well would mean creating a culture where people treat each other with care and respect and consideration because that’s how human beings should treat each other; where people get into the habit of communicating clearly and effectively what they want and don’t want; where slut-shaming women is no longer acceptable and where women have complete ownership of their bodies and sexuality; where rape is considered unacceptable regardless of the context in which it happened, including contexts of casual sex or paid sex; where everyone actively practices safe and healthy sex; where people who are not wired for sexual monogamy can live their preferred sexual lifestyle instead of trying to be monogamous and failing and hurting their partners in the process; where sex can ultimately be viewed as just something that some people like to do and not a big deal or a magical ingredient that elevates a particular relationship to superior status.

I believe building a world where people are both educated about how to have positive nonromantic sex and where they feel supported in having it if they want it would actually dovetail with creating a kinder, healthier, and more ethical world. Positive nonromantic sex can only exist amongst people who are respectful of others regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, etc; who are observing radical, genuine consent; who know their own bodies and can confidently communicate with anyone about what they want, like, and dislike; who are doing everything in their power to regularly take care of their own health and therefore the health of everyone they fuck; who treat people, even people they only want to have sex with, like they matter whether they are in your life for 2 hours, two months, two decades, or forever.

I am disturbed by the attitude that only romantic relationship sex is appropriate, safe, healthy, and nurturing because romance is not some magical repellant for abuse, rape, disrespect, miscommunication, selfishness, etc. You’re living in a fucking fantasy land if you think that all romantic relationships create an environment of respect, care, nurturing, ethical behavior, and love. You’re delusional if you believe that people in romantic-sexual relationships can’t give each other an STD or an STI, including AIDS/HIV. You’re dangerously ignorant and wrong if you believe that rape can’t happen in romantic relationships or that other coercive, abusive sexual encounters can’t happen in them.

I’m also disturbed by the idea that restricting sex to romantic relationships solves problematic sex or renders people’s prejudices and problematic treatment of others irrelevant, benign, or nonexistent. Romance does not excuse you for being a misogynist, a rapist, a slut-shamer, an uncaring person, or anything else. If you’re logic goes, “People should only have sex in romantic relationships because that way, no one would ever feel sexually objectified, no woman would be slut-shamed, no one would be raped or abused by someone who only wants sex from them, etc,” you’ve got a fucked up approach to bad, inexcusable behavior. Not to mention, you’re just wrong about romantic relationships preventing it. Instead of attacking someone’s sexism, someone’s slut-shaming, someone’s abusiveness, someone’s disrespect or dishonesty or rudeness or insensitivity, instead of actually ripping out the problem by the root, you want to just remove an obvious trigger for that behavior. That’s not a method for creating a kind, caring, ethical society where everyone supports each other’s well-being.

As for the health and physical wellness aspect of nonromantic sex, the rules shouldn’t be any different than they are for romantic-sexual relationships. If you’re having sex, you should be using condoms, lube, dental dams, gloves, and whatever other tools of safe sex appropriately, regardless of whether it’s in or out of romantic relationships. If you are sexually active, you should be getting tested for STDs/STIs at least once a year. Period. I don’t care if you fuck one person a year or 20. You are an irresponsible douche bag if you have sex with anyone, without knowing whether or not you’re clean, and don’t give me that shit about “Oh, I’m monogamous in romantic relationships and never have sex when I’m single,” because most people do have sex when they’re single and even if you aren’t cheating, your romantic other might be. Even if you’re clean when you enter into a monogamous romantic relationship, your partner might have an STD/STI and pass it to you. It only takes one person, one sexual encounter, to contract something, and most STDs/STIs are curable. Some of them are completely asymptomatic, so you could have something and not know it unless you get tested. All genital contact counts as sex: oral sex, anal sex, manual sex, penetrative vaginal sex, etc. If you’ve done any of that with anyone, you should get tested. If you can’t afford to get tested, than stop having sex until you can.  That’s the bottom line, about being a responsible sexually active person.

 

Here are the most important points I want to make:

Nonromantic sex can still be caring sex. Nonromantic sexual relationships can still be caring relationships. When most people think about “casual sex” or “one night stands” or “fuck buddies,” there is this silent assumption that the sex is meaningless, careless, disrespectful, and that the people having the sex don’t give a shit about each other at all, don’t view each other as people, don’t take the time or make the effort to be considerate of each other, and pretty much view each other as disposable objects to be used for sexual pleasure. That is not categorically, universally true of nonromantic sex and people who have it. It’s just not. There are people who have casual sex or nonromantic sex who certainly fit that bill, but they are not definitive of nonromantic sex and people who have nonromantic sex. Romance is not the same thing as caring. Romance is not the same thing as respect.

Aromantic sexual people are capable of caring about their sexual partners and treating them like human beings. Aromantic sexual people can even love their sexual partners nonromantically–because hey, loving friendship is a thing. Romantic people of all sexual orientations, including asexuals, often make this fucked up assumption before they take the time to get educated about aromanticism and aromantic allosexuals: they assume that aromantic sexual people don’t care about anyone, including the people they have sex with. They assume that aromantic sexual people feel no emotional attachment to their sexual partners whatsoever, that it’s just superficial attraction and lust in the aromantic person’s experience. That is absolutely, completely fucking false. First of all, not all aromantic people feel the same way about sex or about relationships with others, so while some aromantics might not give a shit about their sexual partners, that isn’t a dominant norm in aromantic sexual people. Second of all, if you’re an aromantic person, it doesn’t mean you have no feelings; it means you don’t feel romantic attraction. Aromantic people can care about and love others in a variety of ways and in different relationships, and that includes their sexual relationships. Some aromantic sexual people actually prefer to form one steady sexual relationship with someone at a time, regardless of the lack of romance, because they don’t actually like or feel comfortable with having a lot of stranger sex or casual sex. Some aromantic sexual people love the idea of having a best friend who they can also fuck, and they may even strongly prefer that the relationship be sexually monogamous. Are they in love with their friend? No. Do they want to do all the standard romantic crap with their friend? No. Does Celine Dion speak to their feelings about their sexual friendship? No. But they sure as hell can still feel attachment, closeness, caring, even (nonromantic) love in a friendship with someone they’ve known for months or years and who they’re having sex with on a regular basis.

You can have a sexual friendship that is just as caring, supportive, nurturing, and connecting as any good nonsexual friendship. If you’re close friends with someone and then you start having sex with each other, the sex does not suddenly cause the friendship to evaporate. The friendliness doesn’t disappear. There is not some void where romance could be. People who have sexual friendships–which are different than “fuck buddies” and “friends with benefits” in that they usually are more emotional and closer–can have a friendship exactly like any other, where they hang out for fun, trust each other, like each other as people, make each other happy, etc and the sex is just one more thing they do together, no different than playing video games or shopping or watching movies. Friends who have no romantic feelings for each other don’t stop being friends just because they start having sex.

If romance is the only reason you treat your sexual partners with care, respect, sensitivity, and love, then you are a piece of a shit. Also, if you judge other people for having nonromantic sex, you’re a piece of a shit. If you think people who only have romantic sex are superior to people who have nonromantic sex, you’re wrong. You’re also a douche canoe.

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An Aromantic Approach to Love

I had an unmistakable aromantic moment today.

I was making small talk with my aesthetician this afternoon, a woman in her mid-40s who’s married to a man and has two kids. She’s been routinely giving me facials for a few years now, so while we don’t know each other well, we aren’t strangers either. I asked her how she met her husband, and she told me the story. Then, she followed up with the question: “Are you dating anybody?” And this time, I said “No,” without explanation. She replied, “By choice?” And I said, “Oh, yeah, definitely by choice.” She responded by saying, in a light and encouraging tone, “You need to go get some life experience. Go date.”

I could harp about the amatonormativity of this comment and how ridiculous or shitty it is that alloromantic allosexuals assume everyone is like them and wants to be in normative romantic-sexual relationships, that they can’t even imagine any other lifestyle than one in which a romantic-sexual relationship is the center of your universe and your primary relationship, that romantic love and sex are not only essential to happiness and fulfillment but definitive of them.

But that’s not what I want to talk about now. I just feel the need to reflect on my emotional reaction to her instruction about dating.

 

I had an immediate, visceral feeling of “No. That is so NOT what I want to do. That is so NOT how I want to create love in my life.”

And it’s not because I’m asexual. It’s not because I want nonsexual love or because I’m firmly committed to lifelong celibacy. It’s not because trying to form a loving, stable, long-term, totally nonsexual romantic relationship with an alloromantic allosexual person is damn near impossible.

It’s because I don’t want to be someone’s girlfriend/boyfriend/romantic other. It’s because I don’t want any of the shit that goes along with normative romantic relationships. Even if some wonderful romantic asexual dropped out of the sky in front of me and I really liked them and they offered me a romantic relationship that included a lot of the stuff I desire, I still wouldn’t say “yes” because I couldn’t be comfortable with all the trappings of traditional romantic relationships. I’m not going to get married, I’m not going to be monogamous, I’m not going to put one partner on a pedestal above my friendships. I don’t even want to be perceived as someone’s romantic other, by the world, even if the relationship itself is totally accommodating of my nature, relationship style, and preferences.

Yet I do want stable, long-term, committed domestic partnerships. I do want very physically sensual/intimate relationships that include stuff like cuddling and kissing bare skin and co-sleeping and holding hands and caresses. I do want loyalty and love and total emotional intimacy in my important relationships. I do want to feel passionate about the significant people in my life, and I want to be loved and desired and valued equally. I do want to create homes with people I love, who love me. I want to create a family, out of the people I love. I feel love deeply, passionately, with my whole heart and soul, and there are no words adequate to describe how emotional the experience of love is for me. How strong desire is for me, when I want someone.

I think for a long time, without even realizing it, I wrote off aromanticism as something that could apply to me because I had internalized the bullshit idea that you can’t be aromantic and a passionately loving person or a person who wants heavily sensual physical intimacy or a person who wants to be prioritized by another human being in a partner-type role. I’ve known better than that intellectually for a while now, and I’ve been considering myself a WTFromantic asexual, which is on the aromantic-spectrum or closely related to it. I just haven’t fully, deeply, emotionally grasped that someone like me, with my emotional experiences and relationship desires, can be completely aromantic. I allowed the stigma attached to aromanticism to prevent me from identifying with it.

Looking back on my life, even the years of my childhood and adolescence where I thought I wanted a traditional romantic relationship without sex and felt I was attracted to men in a way I wasn’t attracted to women, it’s clear to me that what I’ve always wanted more than anything else was a passionate friendship, in addition to several other romantic or queerplatonic friendships. It’s friendship, not romance, that has been a core desire for me all along. It’s friendship I’m interested in intellectually, creatively, spiritually. It’s friendship I look for in entertainment. It’s friendship that excites me. It’s friendship that I could spend hours talking about or reading about or writing about.

Not friendship as most of the world conceives of it. Not the kind of friendship that romantic people have. Not friendship the way it exists next to traditional romance.

But friendship, all the same.

So in the end, sex is less important than I thought it was when I was an asexual teen just coming into the community. I can relate to aromantic sexual people who have tons of sex more than I can relate to romantic, sex-repulsed asexuals who want traditional romantic relationships and hold amatonormative views of friendship and love. When it comes to creating emotionally salient friendships, I can trust aromantic allosexuals who love to be single more than I can trust romantic asexuals who follow a normative relationship style and philosophy.

Being asexual and celibate are very important parts of who I am, they affect my life in a huge way, but they are not more important than my relationship style or my WTFromanticism. They all matter, and they all powerfully determine and shape what kind of relationships I want and who I can form them with. I won’t have sex for love, and I also won’t play the romance game for love either. Ultimately, the kind of love and connection I want with every particle of my being is not found in romance.

Dating is not how you create friendship.  I would argue it’s not the way you create love either, but that’s an idea for another post. For someone like me, who has super specific relationship desires and ultimately wants love that is deep and passionate and real and intimate, the concept of dating to create an amazing connection with someone in a ridiculously short amount of time can be seductive and the structure of that method can also offer a clear path to the goal that’s comforting. But that’s not how friendship is formed. Friendship is not a paint by numbers type of connection, like romance. It’s not something you can whip up in six months or a year. There is no “friendship at first sight,” even if the emotional attraction is very strong between two people. Friendship is crafted slowly and steadily. The intimacy of it, the intensity, the love creeps up on you, and you don’t even notice until you’re right in the middle of it one day.  There are no rules, no pre-existing structure or model to imitate, no standard amount of time it takes to reach “super loving, serious friendship” status. Even once you get to that point in a friendship, you have to tend to it for the rest of your life to maintain it at that level, just like a garden.

Part of me wants to apply the narrative of romance to the friendships I want to create, and I am aware that I can’t do that. Even in a friendship that eventually leads to domestic partnership–moving in together and committing to that shared home and assuming the responsibilities of being someone else’s main source of support and care–there’s almost always a much slower build-up to that level of involvement than there is in romance, regardless of how quickly or strongly you like each other. It’s no use to think, “When I’m that close to my friend, when we love each other that much, then I’ll be happy and then I’ll consider my relationship desire satisfied.” It’s not logical, in a friendship, to be disappointed that you aren’t committed-partner-close yet and so your friendship must “mean less” than it would if you were partners. You’re building the friendship. Constantly. You’re on your way to that ultimate desire of having a deep, strong, committed, involved, loving bond with another person. You’re creating it, as you go through the less emotional, less serious stage. That’s it. That’s the whole process of friendship. The friendship is not a result of the process, the friendship is the process. No, you can’t do it in a year or two, like you can with romance. But that doesn’t mean you’re with the wrong friend. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get to that Loving, Primary Partner level with your friend. In the big picture, it doesn’t even mean the friendship is less significant in the earlier stages than it will be in its prime, because you can’t even get to the prime without going through the building process, however long it takes.

Romance and dating is usually, “Okay, we’ve been on 10 dates or 25 dates or whatever, we’re in love! We’ve been dating for 18 months and it’s great, let’s get married! We’re married now, we’ve arrived!”

But friendship–no matter what kind it is: normative best friendship, passionate friendship, romantic friendship, queerplatonic friendship–is: “Who are you? I think I like you. Now I know you more. I like you more. Now I know you more. I like you more. You’ve changed. Who are you now? I know you again. I like you again. I know you more. I love you. I know you more. I love you. I just saw you in a new way. Still love you.”

If I meet someone new and we become friends, I may not know that our friendship is going to be queerplatonic or sensual or a passionate friendship/domestic partnership for a long time. I may be friends with someone for months or years and not expect them to be someone I have a deep, loving, intimate, significant relationship with, and then suddenly, the friendship starts to transform. I may be friends with my future domestic partner(s) for years without realizing they’re the right ones, and then it gradually dawns on us or takes a sudden turn in a more serious direction. At no point can I really write off a close friend as a potential domestic partner or passionate friend or queerplatonic friend or whatever because at no point does it become “too late” for a friendship to develop into something deeper, more serious, or more loving. It’s possible to meet someone and know instantly that you really want to be close friends with them and that you both feel a strong emotional click or chemistry, but even in those situations, actually becoming friends takes time.

Anyway. Next time someone who doesn’t know me well asks me if I’m single or dating or tells me I should date or will find a romantic partner, I hope I’m on my game enough to tell them the truth: I don’t date because I want friendship, not romance.

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