Tag Archives: romantic friendship

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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Filed under Love & Relationships, Sexuality, Touch

Romantic Friendship, Passionate Friendship, and Queerplatonic Relationships

I’m back for round two of parsing out the differences between romantic friendship, passionate friendship, and queerplatonic relationships. For round one, go here.

Disclaimer: There are exceptions to every rule.


 

In history, romantic friendship was usually a same-sex relationship, between young unmarried people, that often ended upon one friend’s marriage to a third party or at least became diminished by said marriage. Romantic friendship was often totally nonsexual, but some portion of them must’ve included sex either because humankind used to be a lot less rigid about sexual activity as it related (or didn’t relate) to sexual orientation or because gay people used romantic friendship to have romantic-sexual relationships with each other safely, in environments that condemned homosexuality but supported romantic friendship.

Romantic friendship, in present time, can exist between any two people regardless of sexual orientation, romantic orientation, their corresponding genders, their romantic and/or sexual relationships with other people, their ages, etc. Romantic friendship is typically not a primary relationship, and if it is, that status is probably temporary. What that means is, assuming everyone in the picture is cool with it, you can have a romantic partner–whether you are sexual or asexual–and still have a romantic friendship with someone else, whether you’re monogamous or polyamorous with your romantic partner. Romantic friendship is nonsexual, meaning no sexual activity or sexual attraction. (If you’re having sex with someone you’re romantically involved with, you’re just a plain, ol’ romantic-sexual couple, whether you want to identify yourselves as such to the world or not.)

Romantic friendship was named to express the gray-area that it occupied in its historical manifestations: usually nonsexual friendships that did not fill the Romantic-Sexual Primary Partner/Spouse role but that did include romantically coded behaviors, emotional intimacy, and feelings that went beyond the other friendships that both people had with others. I acknowledge that the term “romantic friendship” can be problematic for a few reasons: the term is inaccessible to aromantic people, it suggests that certain behaviors and a certain amount of emotional intensity and investment are innately and universally “romantic”–which isn’t true, and it can be misinterpreted to mean a “fuck buddy” relationship or a transitional period in a relationship that’s moving from standard friendship to normative romantic-sexual couplehood. That said, romantic friendship can still be a useful term for some people, like romantic asexuals who are polyamorous and/or relationship anarchists or varioriented sexual people who feel romantically attracted to people they are not sexually attracted to.

Romantic friendships can include a type of romantic attraction without including a desire to be a normative romantic couple in a primary romantic relationship. This can be romantic attraction that happens outside of a person’s romantic/sexual orientations, like two heterosexual men who feel romantically attracted to each other enough to want romantic friendship but not romantically attracted to each other in a way that motivates them to become a full-blown romantic-sexual couple. Romantic friendships can also be relationships that do not include romantic attraction but do include a strong degree of emotional attraction that surpasses normative friendship, in which case there’s overlap with queerplatonic relationships and the terms become interchangeable.


 

It’s occurred to me that sensual friendship may also be a useful term to describe a nonromantic, nonsexual friendship that involves a lot of sensual touch: cuddling, holding hands, kissing, co-sleeping, massages, caressing the body, etc. A friendship can be physically affectionate without being extremely emotional, so that’s why I think “sensual friendship” does not negate the usefulness of the term “romantic friendship”–which is not to say that intense emotion is automatically romantic, because it’s not. But if you have a friendship that is both physically intimate/sensual and very emotional and you don’t want to use the term queerplatonic for whatever reason, romantic friendship may be your best option.


 

I’ve already written at length about passionate friendship, so I’ll just reiterate its distinctive features that separates it from romantic friendship and queerplatonic relationships.

Passionate friendship is a primary relationship. It does not come second to other relationships, including romantic-sexual relationships. A passionate friend is the most important person is one’s life. A passionate friend is usually treated like a primary partner, whatever that means to someone.

A passionate friendship is nonsexual. It does not include sexual attraction or sexual activity.

A passionate friendship is usually not inclusive of romantic attraction. In my mind, it is essentially a nonromantic relationship and the ultimate expression of nonromantic love, passion, sensuality, etc. It’s a nonromantic relationship that matches romantic relationships as much as any nonromantic bond can. That said, being a fan of ambiguous feelings that refuse to be categorized, I think passionate friendships can be the result of feelings and love that feel neither 100% romantic nor 100% nonromantic. If your feelings are too grey for you to confidently call them “romantic” or “nonromantic” but all those standard features of passionate friendship are present, the term can be a great fit.

A passionate friendship is rare enough that you’re probably not going to have more than one in life and certainly not a long list of them. You can have several romantic friends in life, several queerplatonic friends, several sensual friends, but a passionate friendship is pretty, for lack of a better word, special. Serial anything does not apply to passionate friendship. You don’t “date” to find a passionate friend the way you do with a romantic partner, nor can you pick just any friendship you already have and make it into a passionate friendship. Passionate friendship is a very specific combination of deep, intense feelings, commitment, involvement, emotional attraction, usually a lot of physical intimacy, no sex and (usually) no romance. It either happens to you or it doesn’t. It’s not synonymous with sensual friendship because there’s more to it than physical intimacy; it’s not synonymous with romantic friendship or queerplatonic friendship because it’s both nonromantic and consistently primary with high involvement, high commitment, symmetrical feelings and investment, etc.

Passionate friendships can overlap with queerplatonic relationships, in which case whether you call your relationship a “passionate friendship” or a “queerplatonic relationship” (that’s your primary partnership and involves commitment, intense love, intimacy, complete reciprocity, etc) is up to you and just about personal preference. We might say that passionate friendships are a type of queerplatonic relationship, but not all queerplatonic relationships are passionate friendships. (In other words, chocolate ice cream is ice cream, but not all ice cream is chocolate.)


 

Queerplatonic relationships are the most flexible, varied type of gray-area friendship. Queerplatonic relationships can be super casual or super intense. They can be very involved or barely involved. They can function identically to a normative best friendship or they can become the primary nonromantic partnership in a person’s life, especially if you’re aromantic. They can be sexual, but they are never romantic. They can be subordinated to a person’s romantic-sexual relationships, or they can be superior to a person’s romantic-sexual relationships. (That is, if the two people in a QP relationship are both romantic and sexual, rather than aromantic and/or asexual). You can have as many QP relationships at a time as you want, and they can all look very different from each other, with varying levels of involvement, commitment, emotion, physical intimacy, etc.

Queerplatonic seems to refer to feelings primarily and the actual conduct of the relationship secondarily: meaning, some people who use “queerplatonic” to describe their relationship use it because their feelings are different than the other nonromantic feelings/attachment they have to normative friends, even though the actual queerplatonic relationship looks no different than your average best friendship. This separates queerplatonic relationships from romantic friendship and passionate friendship: romantic friendships and passionate friendships don’t look anything like normative best friendship in practice, nor can they exist if only one person in the friendship wants a lot of involvement/commitment/emotion/touch, while the other doesn’t. Queerplatonic relationships accommodate asymmetrical investment, feelings, commitment, etc; romantic friendships and passionate friendships don’t.


 

It may be accurate to say that passionate friendship and some romantic friendships are actually subtypes of queerplatonic relationships. Queerplatonic is an umbrella term for nonromantic relationships and feelings that exceed or differ from the nonromantic feelings of normative friendship. There’s room for a wide variety of nonromantic relationships that exist between “standard friendship” and “romantic relationships,” which is why you can encounter ten different queerplatonic relationships and they may all work differently.

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Filed under Aromanticism, Language & Terminology, Love & Relationships

Nonromantic Touch, Love, and Intimacy

This is quite possibly the beginning of a new focus on this blog on aromanticism and aromantic-related topics, because the aromantic community and aromantic experiences need a lot more visibility and accurate representation. And frankly, I’ve been thinking lately and I feel like I could be somewhere on the aromantic spectrum. At the very least, the aromantic experience resonates with me a hell of a lot more than the romantic experience.

And aromanticism has the power to liberate all human beings into greater relationship freedom and more loving, intimate relationships of all kinds. So, it’s important that people learn all they can about aromantic stuff.

Without further ado, here’s some lessons on the possibilities of nonromantic touch, love, and intimacy.

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Nothing is inherently romantic.

No form of touch is inherently romantic. Sex is not inherently romantic. Primary relationships and life partnerships are not inherently romantic. Intense emotional attachment and desire for another person is not inherently romantic. Intimacy of any and every kind is not inherently romantic.

What makes a particular behavior or feeling “romantic” is the individual experiencing romantic attraction to their companion and performing certain acts with romantic feeling and intent. That’s all. Romantic attraction and romantic love are internal experiences that cannot be universally defined or externally qualified. What’s romantic to you may not be romantic to someone else and vice versa. You may, as an outsider, view someone else’s relationship or behaviors toward their friend as “romantic” through your own personal bias, but that doesn’t mean they feel romantic attraction or love or view their own actions/relationship as romantic.

In this same vein, nothing is inherently sexual, except for genital sex. No form of physical touch, passionate emotion, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, a desire to be someone’s primary partner, etc are naturally, universally sexual for all human beings.

In the asexual community, we understand this and use the concept of sensual attraction to describe our desires for physical intimacy and touch with specific people, a desire for sensual physicality that is not sexual or related to sexuality.

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This means that you can want and share pretty  much any kind of touch, intimacy, emotional connection, and relationship type with another person who you are not romantically or sexually attracted to, interested in, or involved with. If you feel passionate about someone, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re romantically or sexually attracted to them. If you are sensually attracted to someone–you want to cuddle with them or caress their body nonsexually or hug them a lot or even kiss them in a minimally erotic way–that doesn’t automatically mean you’re romantically or sexually attracted to them, nor does it necessarily reflect on your romantic and/or sexual orientation and identity.

It means that you can be a straight guy who likes to kiss and cuddle your male best friend for nonromantic, nonsexual reasons. Same goes if you’re a straight woman with a female best friend. Or a queer person with an opposite-sex best friend. It means that you can be a very cuddly, sensual aromantic person. It means that in a perfect, free world, you could be romantic monogamist but still have physically affectionate/sensual friendships with people you are not romantically interested in but do love, even while participating in a monogamous romantic relationship. It means that you don’t have to want to fuck someone, in order to want physical intimacy and closeness with them. It means that if you do want physical closeness with a friend, you don’t have to feel obligated to fuck them in any way, if you don’t really want to. Or date them. Ever.

You can be straight and want a physically affectionate, sensual friendship with someone of the same gender.

You can be queer and want a physically affectionate, sensual friendship with someone of the opposite gender.

You can be straight or queer or asexual and want a physically affectionate, sensual friendship with someone of the gender(s) you are sexually and/or romantically attracted to, without actually wanting a romantic or sexual relationship with your friend.

You can be aromantic as fuck and still want a physically affectionate, intimate, sensual friendship with anyone.

You can want to be primary partners with someone in a  nonromantic, nonsexual way. You can want an exclusive friendship with someone you’re not interested in dating, a friendship that’s more important to you than all your other nonromantic relationships without actually crossing into romantic/sexual territory. In aromantic spaces, these relationships are usually called queerplatonic.

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Aromantic people, whether they are asexual or allosexual, can want and enjoy and engage in the full spectrum of nonsexual physical touch [hugs, holding hands, cuddling, caressing, kissing, massages, bed sharing, etc] with friends they are not romantically attracted to or interested in. Aromantic people can feel passionate–meaning intense–love and emotional desire for friends, queerplatonic partners, whoever. Aromantic people can desire a primary partner, a life partner who they may want to live with and be a family with, a partner they want exclusive commitment from, and to them, that partner is not a romantic interest.

Primary partnerships are not innately romantic. Your primary partner doesn’t have to be a romantic partner.

Aromantic people can experience and desire a high degree of emotional intimacy with their friends or with one particular friend who’s more like a partner. Aromantic people can be very loving, caring, emotional people because love is not exclusively romantic, caring is not exclusively romantic, feelings are not exclusively romantic. Aromantic people can feel lonely. Aromantic people can get jealous over their friends and whoever it is they love, when they perceive a threat to their relationships. Aromantic people can be heartbroken by rejection, abandonment, a friendship breaking up, etc.

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You can love someone nonromantically (and nonsexually) with so much intensity, that it’s indescribable. You can feel crazy attracted to someone emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, even aesthetically and sensually, without being romantically and/or sexually attracted to them.

You can want a super involved, emotional, intimate, physically sensual friendship with someone you aren’t romantically in love with and don’t actually want to date, and it’s okay. It’s okay to not limit yourself to romantic relationships for emotional passion or intimacy or sensual touch or primary partnership. You’re not obligated to adopt mainstream culture’s paradigm of romantic relationships as the only source of touch and passion and love and intimacy and commitment and family. You’re free. You get to decide how your relationships look.

Being aromantic doesn’t obligate you to be alone, to be unpartnered, to live without physical affection and intimacy, or to have cold/lukewarm/superficial connections with people.

Nonromantic love can be just as important, mind-blowing, deep, intense, passionate, emotional, and significant as romantic love.

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Filed under Aromanticism, Love & Relationships, Touch

Why Sexualize and Romanticize Powerful Nonsexual Love? [Quote]

I was just rereading a philosophy conference paper on “the ideal nonsexual love” (which is basically passionate friendship) that I wrote in college, in my last semester, and one part in particular was so well-stated, I want to share it here:

“The common impulse to interpret an intense emotional bond between two people in a nonsexual relationship as covertly sexual is a symptom of our inability to see love of a certain emotional caliber as independent of sex and even romance. The ideal nonsexual love and the potential in cooler friendships to evolve into that ideal radically subverts the power, status, and cultural value currently assigned to erotic love and romantic-sexual monogamous couplehood. Erroneously insisting that nonsexual relationships of high emotional intensity are in fact sexual and romantic is an undermining of nonsexual love’s emotional potential. It is a form of relationship erasure with implications affecting the overall relational fabric of society, limiting people to one normative relationship structure without allowing them to question the effectiveness of that structure in their individual lives.” 

Looking at you, fandom.

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Filed under Aromanticism, Love & Relationships, Personal, The Basics

Asexual Desire

I keep coming back to the idea of desire: nonsexual desire, between two asexuals. What does that feel like, when it’s reciprocal? What does it look like?

I like to frame it in physical terms because I’m a very sensual, tactile person in loving, intimate relationships. Sexual society believes that physical desire is innately, exclusively sexual, but I know how it feels to desire someone physically and nonsexually. Asexuals are the ones who started to use the concept of sensual attraction as something separate and distinct from sexual attraction, to describe the desire to be physically affectionate or intimate with someone, without making sexual contact. When you feel sensually attracted to someone, it’s not a choice to combine an abstract enjoyment of physical affection with a person you feel comfortable with; sensual attraction really is a kind of attraction, a pull toward someone specific, a directed desire to touch someone’s body and have them touch you. It’s not something you can conjure or eliminate. The desire comes into being of its own accord.

When I desire someone, every single touch we share becomes a source of joy. Our touching is the communication of love, a million times more visceral than an exchange of words. When I desire someone physically (and nonsexually), what I desire is pleasure and intimacy and connection and care and love. When I desire someone, I see the beautiful parts of their body, their face—not because I’m attracted to their appearance (I could be, but that attraction is separate) but because my love for them, my desire for them, makes them beautiful. They become, in their physicality, a source of pleasure and love; they become a vessel where I can direct my own loving.

I want to be desired by my passionate friends and my romantic friends and every single person I love—desired in this nonsexual, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical way. I want them to love my body because they love me, not what it looks like but what it feels like in their hands and their arms and against their skin. I want them to love my smell, my heartbeat, the rhythm of my breath. I want them to love the warmth of my body, the weight of it, the uniqueness of it. I want them to love touching me, holding me, kissing me, so much that they dream about it in between visits.

I want to feel that way about them, too.

I imagine that when two asexuals desire each other, when they’re sensually attracted to each other, there is a breathtaking freedom about their touch. Sex is not an issue. It doesn’t have to be worried about, feared, or avoided. The physical interaction can unfold easily, naturally, without restraint. You don’t have to think about what you’re doing. Nothing will be taken the wrong way. There’s no edge you have to be careful around. You can be completely, deeply, fully sensual because no amount of sensuality will force the sexual. The desire is clear: I want your body, I want you to touch me, I want to touch you, but genitals are not involved.

My asexual friends and I (romantic friends, passionate friends) can spend hours in bed together, touching and cuddling and maybe kissing. We can strip to our underwear, dive under the duvet, and touch each other’s bare skin, hold each other almost naked body to almost naked body. We can kiss each other’s face, neck, shoulders, back, hands, tummy. I’m not keen on mouth to mouth kissing, but full-blown physical desire for me can definitely lead to body kisses. (I’m a big fan of neck kisses, especially the ones that come from behind.) I won’t even rule out a little bit of nibbling. We can cuddle in every position conceivable. We can give each other massages with oil. We can run our hands over each other’s body, just for the pleasurable sensation, stroke and rub and pet. We can listen to each other’s heartbeat. We can clasp hands, fall asleep together. We can just look at each other, lying side by side in bed, and be quiet as we appreciate our intimate physical togetherness.

Sometimes, I imagine how fun it could be for an ace passionate friend and I to undress each other for sensual cuddling—even if it’s just unbuttoning a shirt or unbuckling a belt or pulling off a jacket. Undressing each other as we touch each other, embracing. It’s an act of desire but also a symbol of the freedom and confidence and ease we feel together, coming from the same place of nonsexual desire. We can be that close, that intimate, maybe even a little flirty, and it’s safe.

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Filed under Celibate Asexuality, Love & Relationships, Personal, Touch

Asexual Intimacy is Good.

The author over at Queering Asexuality, whom I will call “L” because in her about section she calls herself only L.E.M.S., wrote a really excellent post today about consent in sexual situations (from an asexual perspective) and her conclusion about asexual intimacy (which is basically nongenital, sensual physical interaction) being a gloriously good and pleasurable thing in its own right, not anything less than sex.

Here are my favorite parts that I want to comment on:

But I think everyone just needs to experience what it can really be like when you are with another person who is willing or just wants to see what can happen when you adore and love limitations. Big big “limitations.” When you limit yourself even more than you usually do (yes, you, asexual person). I’m talking about changing the goals too: Not aiming for orgasm, or pleasuring the self or the other person in a way where you have to turn someone on or be turned on [.....] Just kissing, cuddling, caressing, hugging, embracing in the darkness, not heading for the genitals, not needing to get undressed, not trying to increase the pleasure, but just sustaining the sensuality by ebbs and flows – I don’t know, you feel loved, connected, like the person isn’t getting lost in anything, but is always with you each moment, surprising you still at every turn. It is addicting, and it’s not over in ten minutes, but keeps going for hours, and you are glad that it does.

My point is that you don’t have to do much to reach incredible, satisfying heights of desire, connection, and pleasure. I have this feeling some of us kind of just wish we wanted to do more, and so we may feel like we always have to do the furthest thing we are comfortable with and like because why not do “the most?” You can say that, but I think when you finally experience intimacy with another asexual person (I don’t mean to be limiting, but I know nothing beyond my own experience), then you really honestly can feel confident about asserting what you want and don’t want with people, with anyone asexual or not. Because, and this is SO important so listen very very closely, because you KNOW that what people can experience with you in terms of the absolute “minimal” you want to offer is absolute magic. They should be so lucky to get to participate in and have access to what they might not experience otherwise. Fuck thinking I’m holding people back, and so compromise on what I want/don’t want. I’m moving people forward. I’ve got it. Just listen to me, I’ll say. You don’t even know love ’til I show you how it feels. You don’t know sensuality. You can take it from me asexual world: asexual intimacy is a fucking good thing to experience. And I really don’t think I’ll ever settle for less again. I didn’t even know how “not far” I could go. 

 

I’ve desired intensely sensual, profoundly spiritual physical intimacy in romantic friendships and passionate friendships my whole life. It’s one of the key features of my ideal relationships. Touch is my love language, so even when I’m not thinking about myself in my own hypothetical relationships but instead thinking of characters in stories I write or in other people’s stories, I zone in on the physical affection and intimacy because it’s the ultimate expression of love and connection to me. I’ve learned in recent years just how sensual and intimate and even borderline erotic nonsexual physical intimacy can be, just from exploring different ideas about what two people in a totally nonsexual relationship can do together physically….. And the suggestion that such intimacy is somehow inferior or incomplete because it isn’t sex, because it doesn’t involve genitals and orgasm, is totally ridiculous. When I think about or write about two people who love each other epically, cuddling and caressing in bed for hours and touching each other’s bare skin and breathing together and kissing each other’s body and just being 100% present and focused on the encounter as they individually enter a space of pure love, that is a million times more intimate and intense than a lot of the sex that happens in the world. I’ve said before that sex and intimacy are two different things, and they are not interdependent whatsoever. Asexual intimacy, as L calls it, is the perfect example of that.

It’s occurred to me many times before that most sexual people out there have never imagined just how intimate you can be with someone else in a physical way, without having sex, without even getting naked together. They assume that all asexuals are totally disinterested in physical expressions of love, intimate touch, sensual touch, etc because they have connected the concept of “physical intimacy” and sex so inextricably that the first can never happen without leading to the second. But there are so many aces who want physical intimacy in their relationships, whether romantic or nonromantic. I believe that there’s even some degree of self-restraint that happens with asexuals who only get involved with sexual people, because we know that if we’re not careful, we’re going to end up in an unwanted sexual situation just because we were too physical.

But God, when you’re with another ace and sex isn’t even an issue….. You’re free to do anything. I think the most beautiful sentiment in L’s post is that there is nothing “minimal” about asexual intimacy. Asexual intimacy is not small, it’s not shallow, it’s not boring. It is whole and expansive and it has the potential to reach so deeply into your heart and soul, to create a sense of connection between two asexuals that is indescribable and powerful. It can be so caring and tender and emotional. Sexual people have no idea. They think those of us who are celibate are missing out on sex, when they’ve never experienced the love and connection that can happen during asexual intimacy.

And it is pleasurable. Physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually. If you just want to talk about it from a physical standpoint, it’s much more of a total body pleasure throughout the entire encounter, as opposed to the genital-specific pleasure of sexual orgasm. DJ, the founder of AVEN, once described how “high impact cuddling” can go on for hours because there is no naturally occurring endpoint, like orgasm, to signal that the physical intimacy can conclude. You just touch as long as you want to, and there’s no climactic sensation, just a never-ending stream of pleasure. (I think I once alluded to this as a kind of infinite desire asexuals can experience for one another.)

One of the many, many reasons I want to form intimate relationships with other celibate asexuals exclusively is because I want the people I love, the people I share my body with, to know and to feel that this nonsexual physical intimacy is 100% gratifying and amazing and special and far from me “holding them back,” I am giving them complete vulnerability and love and care and pleasure. I want to share this with people who appreciate it, who want it, who need it, who love it.

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Filed under Celibate Asexuality, Love & Relationships, Touch

Are Asexuals Capable of Nonsexual/Nonromantic Love Unique to Us?

Recently, I started to deeply contemplate an idea that has flit in and out of mind a handful of times, and the idea has evolved into a theory. The theory feels strongly probable to me, but I haven’t yet decided to view it as truth. I feel like my life experience has been building to this theory for a long time, but I haven’t explored it long enough to make it a part of my worldview.

The theory is this: Asexuals, including aromantics, may be capable of feeling a unique kind of nonsexual/nonromantic love that romantic-sexual people cannot feel.

This nonsexual/nonromantic love is the kind that romantic friendships, passionate friendships, and certain queerplatonic friendships are based on: it’s a love that is far more emotional, profound, intense, and significant than anything that holds together a common friendship, but it is not romantic or sexual and does not seek to culminate in a traditional romantic relationship. It’s a nonsexual/nonromantic love that causes someone to see a special friend as their primary companion, the most important person in their life, or at least equally as important as any romantic partner they might have. It’s a nonsexual/nonromantic love that causes someone to want a lot of physical, even sensual, affection and intimacy with their friend.  It’s a kind of nonsexual/nonromantic love that feels completely equal to the kind of romantic-sexual love that’s universal to romantic-sexual people: equal in intensity, equal in depth, equal in its power to compel attention and prioritization and commitment and heavy involvement.

I’m not suggesting that the romantic love asexuals feel is any different than the romantic love that sexual people feel, aside from the absence of sexual desire. I’m not suggesting that romantic asexuals are capable of a special type of romantic love. The love I’m talking about is not the stuff of traditional romantic relationships, sexual or nonsexual. The love I’m talking about can just as easily be felt by an aromantic asexual as a romantic asexual, maybe even more frequently by aromantic aces.

I’m thinking of feelings that lead to what you could call “gray area relationships.” Relationships that are essentially a blending of common friendship and traditional romance, that fall in between the two standard categories. Relationships that look a lot like romance but are not sexual, don’t actually have to include any kind of romantic attraction, and are a hell of a lot more important and emotional and intimate than common friendships.

My reasons for this theory are simple: romantic-sexual people, for the most part, don’t have romantic friendships or passionate friendships. They don’t believe in them, they don’t want them, they don’t understand them. The vast majority of the sexual population has never heard of these relationship types, and usually, when you explain it to them, they respond with general disbelief, confusion, dismissal, etc. They’re very quick to label any kind of relationship that looks more emotional, physical, and important than common friendship as romantic and sexual, even when there’s no evidence whatsoever of romantic attraction and sexual activity between the two people in question. Asexuals are all too familiar with sexual people’s skepticism of romantic attraction that isn’t born in sexual attraction, of romantic relationships that don’t include sex as legitimate and distinct from nonromantic friendship, and of their total incomprehension of nonromantic primary partnerships, such as the kind that aromantic asexuals may want or have. They sexualize and romanticize all forms of physical affection more intimate than a hug. They cry “emotional cheating” if they think their romantic partner is nonsexually connected to someone else “too much.”

Meanwhile, there are scores of asexuals, both romantic and aromantic, who have expressed interest in romantic friendship or passionate friendship or queerplatonic friendships that function as primary partnerships. And I’m not talking about romantic asexual relationships. Totally different thing than those friendships. That’s sort of the bottom line. There are romantic asexuals who do feel romantic attraction and who can fall in love and know the emotional difference between a romantic relationship and a romantic friendship, and they express interest in having a romantic friendship as something separate than any desire to have a romantic relationship. There are aromantic asexuals who can nonromantically fall in love with a friend so hard that they want to be lifelong, primary partners with that friend–in a totally nonsexual, nonromantic relationship. There are aromantic asexuals who can be very physically affectionate with a friend they love, and there are romantic asexuals who are totally open to have both a romantic partner and a romantic friend, maybe more than one romantic friend.

All of this data suggests to me that there might actually be a difference in the emotional wiring of asexuals that allows us to feel nonromantic love in a way that romantic-sexual people just can’t. Even when asexuals don’t have the language to describe their feelings and their relationship desires, it’s common enough for them to sense that they want something other than a plain old friendship and other than a romantic relationship, that they aren’t all immediately jumping to the conclusion that a desire for romantic friendship/passionate friendship/primary QP relationship is actually a desire for a romantic relationship. This sense of loving people in friendship, in a way that blurs sexual culture’s rigid dichotomy of “nonromantic” and “romantic” feelings is intuitive and persistent enough in many asexuals that they throw up their hands and say “Fuck it. I don’t know what romance is as opposed to friendship, and I no longer care. I don’t even need a romantic identity label. I’m asexual and I love people, period.”  (Some of them even playfully identify as WTFromantic.)

I, for one, am quite familiar with both feeling love that is clearly romantic friendship or passionate friendship type love, NOT romantic relationship type love, and totally confusing sexual people who don’t have a clue that any kind of relationship besides common friendship and traditional romance exists and therefore misconstrue what I feel and what I want. Sexual people of all genders, age categories, races, orientations, etc–same inability to understand the emotion and desire for romantic friendship/passionate friendship/primary queerplatonic friendship.

I think that when it comes to the sexual population’s disconnect from gray-area nonsexual relationships (romantic friendship, passionate friendship, and primary nonromantic relationships), there are really only two explanations:

1. They can’t feel the feelings that fuel these kind of relationships.

2. They can feel the feelings that fuel these kind of relationships, but through their own social conditioning, they come to believe that such relationships do not and cannot exist and have nothing desirable to offer. In the event that they do feel emotions for someone that are naturally of the gray-area nonsexual friendship kind, they mistake those emotions for romantic and sexual and thus pursue a romantic-sexual relationship with someone they actually want to be romantic friends/passionate friends/nonromantic primary partners/super close QP friends with. Or, they don’t act on their feelings at all. And then, despite feeling these feelings, they act totally confused and weirded out and dismissive and even shitty when asexuals bring up the subject of romantic friendship or passionate friendship or nonromantic primary friendship because they feel the need to uphold their own culture’s teachings on love and relationships despite the fact that their own emotional experiences prove those norms to be bullshit.

I think this is the perfect scenario in which to apply Occam’s Razor, which is a a logical principle that basically says when you have competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions is the best one. So, simplest explanation is the likeliest.

Clearly, that would be #1.

The explanation of why sexual people can’t and don’t have these kinds of friendships matters to me personally because it determines how I feel about the situation. If romantic-sexual people can’t feel the feelings necessary for these types of friendships–they literally cannot feel nonromantic/nonsexual love as deep, intense, sensual, and emotional as the kind that fuels these relationships, regardless of what they intellectually think about the relationships–then I can’t hold that against them. It sucks, but it can’t be helped. It’s no different than asexuals, myself included, being incapable of feeling sexual desire for other people, especially in the context of romantic love. If we’re simply built for different kinds of relationships, then it’s pointless to get upset about being unable to connect to sexual people in these ways that matter to me, because they didn’t choose to be what they are and can’t choose to be any different.

But if they are capable of these feelings that can lead to these friendships and they never act on them, they stay firmly closed to these alternative friendships, they doubt or dismiss or criticize them, they act as if asexuals are freaks for wanting friendships like that and engaging in them whenever we get the opportunity, they try to impose their false readings of romance and sex onto our romantic friendships/passionate friendships/primary QP relationships, etc….. then, sexual people are just boring, conformist assholes about the whole thing and letting culturally sanctioned romance supremacy and sex supremacy rule the way all human beings form relationships without ever critically thinking about their own emotions or how they do relationships and why. What’s worse, they’re controlling the odds of asexuals getting the romantic friendships/passionate friendships/primary nonromantic partnerships some of us want from that place. In which case, I have no respect for them and solid reason to resent them.

So, I’m leaning toward this theory as a way to explain what I’ve lived and what I see in the world. I think the only thing that holds me back from fully adopting it is the obvious: if romantic-sexual people, on the whole, can’t feel these particular friendship feelings I’ve been feeling my whole life, then there’s no hope of ever having a romantic friendship or any other type of serious/intimate/alternative friendship with any of them. Not a single romantic-sexual person I meet, as long as I live. I’ve already pretty much concluded that I can never have the relationships I desire with romantic-sexual people, more from the standpoint of Explanation #2, but adopting the Theory of Emotional Difference would makes it 100% impossible. Which does not bode well in the event that I slip up one day and lose control of my emotions long enough to get seriously attached to someone who’s a romantic-sexual person. Unrequited love–I’ve had enough of that crap for one lifetime.

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

Differences Between Romantic Friendship, Passionate Friendship, and Queerplatonic Friendships

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, especially in lieu of seeing some people interpret my conceptualization of passionate friendship as equivalent or identical to queerplatonic relationships.

I consider romantic friendships, passionate friendships, and queerplatonic relationships to be three different and distinct categories of relationship. In my post on passionate friendship, I talked about the differences between romantic friendship and passionate friendship and why I felt like the term “passionate friendship” is useful, even if the relationship it describes between two particular individuals is identical to someone else’s relationship that they call a romantic friendship. For the sake of making life easy for readers, I’ll just briefly review what the general differences between romantic friendship and passionate friendship are, in my view.

Romantic friendship, which has a history including the coining of that actual term, has typically been a relationship between people of the same-sex, people who are contemporaries (in the same age group), young unmarried individuals, and people who eventually entered into traditional romantic-sexual marriages with third parties. The romantic friendship frequently ended or cooled off significantly, following the marriage of one or both friends; the romantic-sexual marriage took priority over the romantic friendship or simply impeded intimacy and physical proximity in the romantic friendship, to the point that the friendship faded out.

So romantic friendship was actually not often a long-term relationship, and it usually became subordinated to a romantic-sexual couple relationship that served as the married friend’s primary relationship.

Passionate friendship, on the other hand, is a primary relationship or one of the most important relationships in a person’s life. A passionate friendship is essentially a life partnership with no sex/sexual attraction/sexual desire, and usually no romantic attraction either. Passionate friendship can happen between any combination of genders, between any combination of ages, etc. Passionate friendship is never, ever subordinated to a romantic-sexual relationship; a passionate friendship comes first or it is completely equal–behaviorally and emotionally–to a romantic-sexual relationship had by one of the passionate friends, if either friend is a sexual person. A passionate friendship feels too important to the people in it, for anything–including a romantic-sexual relationship–to challenge it in any way. A passionate friendship easily inspires the friends to live together with commitment, to put each other first, to treat each other like partners, etc. Think “in love married couple, without sexual attraction/desire/action, and no romantic attraction either.”

Having said all of that, let me turn to queerplatonic relationships.

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that the term and concept of a “queerplatonic” friendship originated in the aromantic section of the asexual community, to describe relationships that surpassed common friendship emotionally and sometimes behaviorally, but did not actually include romantic attraction or romantic behavior.

The thing about queerplatonic relationships, though, is that they are way more varied than romantic friendship or passionate friendship. A queerplatonic relationship can be heavily one-sided, it can be sexual (think fuck buddies who care about each other more than they do their other friends but not in a romantic way), it can occupy a secondary space in the lives of one or both people in it in order to preserve the primacy of a traditional romantic-sexual relationship, it can function identically to a common friendship and be queerplatonic only in the sense that one or both friends have feelings for each other that exceed the feelings they have for their other friends, etc.

Contrary to some people’s assumptions, you don’t have to be aromantic or asexual to have a queerplatonic friendship. For the record, you don’t have to be asexual or aromantic to have a romantic friendship or a passionate friendship, although I personally believe that a passionate friendship is way more likely to happen when one or both people in it are asexual.

Anyway. What I’m getting at is: it’s incorrect to say that a passionate friendship or even a romantic friendship is the same thing as a queerplatonic relationship. A queerplatonic relationship can look a lot like a romantic friendship or a passionate friendship, but a queerplatonic relationship can also look nothing like a romantic friendship or a passionate friendship.

A passionate friendship would never, ever be one-sided in any way. A passionate friendship would never, ever take any kind of a backseat to one or both friends’ sexual relationships with other people. A romantic friendship can’t be one-sided either. A romantic friendship could come second place to a romantic-sexual relationship, but because the whole bottom line of a romantic friendship is an emotional connection that’s very similar to the kind present in a romantic-sexual couple relationship (hence, the term romantic friendship), if the RF comes second to a sexual relationship, it’s going to be a close second.

On the other hand, I’ve heard about queerplatonic relationships that are clearly nowhere near as important as one or both friends’ sexual relationships with others. I’ve heard of people who have queerplatonic relationships but are still planning on entering traditional romantic-sexual relationships with other people and making those romantic-sexual relationships their primary/life partner relationships. I’ve heard of queerplatonic relationships where it’s pretty damn clear that the QP feelings are pretty much one-sided, usually when one person’s an asexual and the other person’s not and the friendship works just like any common friendship. I’ve heard of queerplatonic relationships happening over long distance that are probably going to stay that way. I’ve heard of QP relationships that don’t include cohabitation and never will and meanwhile, one or both friends are living or will live with a lover.

And all of that stuff just can’t happen in a romantic friendship or a passionate friendship. I’m not saying that a queerplatonic relationship objectively matters less to the people in it than a romantic friendship or a passionate friendship would (although QP relationships certainly can matter less than RF’s or PF’s), but I’m saying that a queerplatonic relationship can be a lot less committed, involved, emotionally intense, intimate, exclusive, etc than either a romantic friendship or a passionate friendship.

There are aromantic asexuals or even romantic-sexual people who actually want a low-commitment, low-involvement, low-maintenance queerplatonic relationship because that’s what fits their personality or their lifestyle or whatever, and if that kind of QP relationship satisfies them and it makes sense to them to call the relationship a QP relationship rather than another common friendship (or a best friendship), that’s their business.

I just want to make it clear that queerplatonic relationships are not synonymous with romantic friendships or passionate friendships, and that romantic friendships/passionate friendships have a lot less room for variety of emotional involvement, commitment, etc.

Maybe you think this is just getting hypersensitive over semantics, but words matter, especially when you’re communicating to people about what you want and need in relationships. When I say I want a passionate friendship or romantic friendship with someone, I want it to be very clear that I’m asking for a relationship involving high-emotional involvement, high levels of commitment, high levels of physical intimacy, a reciprocity of feeling and behavior that’s nonnegotiable, and a mutual valuing of the relationship that makes it one of the most important–if not the most important–relationship in both people’s lives.

Maybe someone wanting a queerplatonic relationship means the same thing, but there are a lot of people wanting a QP relationship that mean something completely different. And for those of us who want an RF or a PF, it’s important there’s clarity about what we’re looking for, so that we can–you know–actually get what we want.

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Filed under Language & Terminology, Love & Relationships

Commitment in Relationships for Celibate Asexuals and Aromantics

This is a response to Ace Admiral’s post on the issue of relationship commitment in the lives of asexuals, which I found via The Asexual Agenda’s linkspam. I think commitment in personal relationships, no matter what kind they are, is a very important subject in the asexual community and one that has not been discussed in a satisfactory way yet. So I’m going to add my two cents.

First, a disclaimer: I’m only personally concerned with seriously thinking about commitment in relationships between two asexuals, regardless of their romantic orientations and the nature of their relationship (traditional romance, friendship, romantic friendship, passionate friendship, queerplatonic relationship, etc).

 

Re: My Total Disbelief in Getting Commitment from Sexual People

Ace Admiral stated in their post that commitment is the one thing they haven’t been able to find in their personal relationships, which sound to be nonromantic as well as nonsexual. I have to assume most or all of Admiral’s friends are romantic-sexual people, simply because 99% of the human species is comprised of romantic-sexual people. Based on that assumption, it doesn’t surprise me for a nanosecond that commitment has been elusive in Admiral’s relationships so far. Frankly, it blows me away that any celibate asexual, romantic or aromantic, could expect commitment to happen in relationships with sexual people.

If you’re a celibate asexual looking for a primary nonsexual relationship, whether it’s romantic or nonromantic, the odds of you forming that kind of bond with someone who is a romantic-sexual person, particularly one who’s a relationship traditionalist, are as close to zero as possible. If you’re a romantic asexual who wants to live a celibate life and who has established a standard of celibacy in your romantic relationships, long-term commitment (i.e. 5+ years) with a sexual person is basically impossible because of the sex issue alone. If you’re an aromantic asexual or a romantic asexual who’s looking for a queerplatonic partner or some other kind of nonromantic primary partner, not only is the no sex thing a killer but now you have to convince the sexual person who is most likely also romantic, to engage with you in ways that are unconventional for a “friendship” and to also see that relationship as a candidate for formal commitment of some kind—which directly contradicts everything that romantic-sexual society teaches about relationships.

The reason why it’s so damn hard for an ace to find “commitment,” whatever that means per individual, with the average sexual person is because the way that sexual person perceives “commitment” in human relationships doesn’t even take nonromantic, let alone nonsexual, relationships into account as commitment-worthy connection. If you’re “just a friend,” then they don’t see what there is to commit to. “Commitment,” in romantic-sexual society, is a hallmark of traditional romantic-sexual couple relationships. Commitment means permanent cohabitation, it means legal marriage, it means raising children together, it means if one person in the relationship gets a job in another state then the other person has to go with them or the relationship is over, it means taking responsibility for a partner’s well-being if said partner gets sick or loses their job or whatever. All of that stuff, in the minds of romantic-sexual people, belongs exclusively to romantic-sexual relationships because those are the only relationships that can even be considered or pursued as primary life partnerships.

That’s what you’re coming up against when you’re a celibate ace looking for something more serious than common friendship with a romantic-sexual person. Sex is the most immediate and obvious barrier, but it’s not the only barrier. The relationship mindset that sexual people have, which is deeply, deeply embedded in them and their culture and their society’s dialogue about relationships (and even the WORD they exclusively reserve for romantic-sexual relationships!), is a hell of a lot more difficult to overcome. You can’t even have the conversation about commitment in a nonromantic and/or nonsexual relationship with one of them, if they don’t understand or accept on a basic level that commitment can exist in a nonsexual and/or nonromantic relationship.

Do I believe that a good chunk of the sexual population would benefit if they could form primary, long-term partnerships with nonsexual and/or nonromantic companions? Yes, I do.

Do I believe that a good chunk of them would find a deeper and more stable happiness in a lifestyle where nonsexual love is central and where they can build families on nonsexual/nonromantic love and relationships? Yes, I believe that.

Do I believe that these very same romantic-sexual people who have never before in their lives imagined that relationships such as romantic friendship or passionate friendship or queerplatonic relationships can exist, would benefit emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically from having those relationships? Yes. I think they would, and I think it would shock them just how beneficial those relationships would prove to be.

But whether they would benefit or not is irrelevant. Their culture, their society, their attitudes and outlook about relationships don’t allow them (or us, with them) to live life that way or have those kinds of nonsexual and/or nonromantic relationships in a consistent, stable, widespread fashion. And if they want to have a culture and society that does give them the freedom and opportunity and access to those nonsexual and/or nonromantic relationships, they’re the ones who have to change the way they think and what they believe.

It’s on them to change their own culture. I’m not holding my breath, waiting for them to do it.

But if it can be done, sexual people have to take the initiative to put that massive change into motion. They have to start deciding, one by one, that they’re going to think and act and form relationships differently than how they’ve been conditioned. That change in perspective is entirely internal—which means we, their asexual and aromantic would-be partners and committed friends—can’t make it happen. We can introduce the ideas of these nonsexual and/or nonromantic relationships to them, we can introduce the idea of choosing a nonsexual and/or nonromantic relationship as the committed partnership (or one of them) in life, but that’s about it.

Agree with me or disagree with me, about romantic-sexual people’s capacity for committed nonsexual love. That’s my piece, and I stand by it.

 

Asexual & Aromantic Commitments

I can tell you that for me, commitment is highly important in all of my emotional relationships. All of them. My kind of relationship anarchy, the way I’m emotionally wired, entails loving every person I love in a very deep, intense way, and because I truly don’t differentiate between “romantic” and “nonromantic” love or feel the need to draw behavioral differences between “romantic” relationships vs. “friendships,” there’s no particular kind of relationship in which commitment is more important to me than other kinds. If I love someone, I want commitment with them, and there’s not a cap on the number of people I can love at a time and be committed to.

Which is one of the many, many reasons that I’ll only consider other celibate asexuals and aromantics potential passionate friends, romantic friends, and queerplatonic partners. Commitment is important to me, to the point that if my chances of getting it from someone are 5%, I’m not going to bother emotionally investing in that person. I’ve just explained why I think getting a romantic-sexual person to commit to anything other than a traditional romantic-sexual relationship is next to impossible, so it logically follows that I look to my own people for love.

Ace Admiral mentioned that their heart’s true desire is for a group of 4-6 intimate relationships, then added they’re afraid that’s impossible and have lowered their expectation to just one. I can relate to this because my ultimate ideal is to have a relationship anarchist family consisting of an unknown number of passionate friendships, romantic friendships, and queerplatonic relationships. Call me an absurd optimist too stubborn for my own good, but I’m unwilling to give up on my desire. I’m also generally not worried about it. I acknowledge it might not happen, but I believe anything is possible, including what I want. You can’t take back a desire anyway, so you might as well surrender to the ones you’ve got.

**For those of us who are polyamorous and/or RA, remember this: you make a commitment to an individual, not a group. Even if your partners are involved with each other in addition to you, you have to treat each relationship as an its own organism. If you got 4 major relationships, three of them are going well, and one of them isn’t—you have to deal with the one that’s not doing so hot as a stand-alone relationship, not as a piece of a group relationship. You may have commitments with all four people at the same time and they may be committed to you and to each other, but any one of those individual commitments can dissolve, regardless of how the rest are faring.

I want two partners who I live with the rest of my life, ideally in two separate residences, so in those relationships, cohabitation would be a part of the commitment and the biggest indicator of commitment.

But otherwise, commitment in my relationships is basically just another word for loyalty. It means that we—my friend and I—are going to love each other and invest in the relationship and give each other attention consistently over a long period of time, ideally for the rest of our lives. It means we’re going to do whatever we can to keep our relationship alive and to meet each other’s needs and desires in the relationship, because we love each other. It means that our relationship is something we protect and support, regardless of anything or anyone else in our lives.

I guess in a nonsexual relationship that isn’t “monogamous” in any way and that doesn’t involve exclusive or long-term cohabitation, what you’re committing to is creating and maintaining quality in the relationship itself and ensuring the survival of that relationship. But if your relationship isn’t “monogamous” or if it isn’t on the Relationship Escalator, then it might feel weird or difficult to pin down how to express your commitment because the typical markers of it—all that stuff your average romantic-sexual monogamous couple does—aren’t relevant.

So what does commitment look like, for a nonsexual and/or nonromantic relationship—especially if it’s nonmonogamous? If I have a romantic friendship, passionate friendship, or a queerplatonic relationship with someone who I’m not living with and we’re committed to each other, that means that we do whatever we have to do to both stay in relationship with each other and to make each other feel loved and valued and important.

So we spend time together whenever we can, just the two of us. We protect that time. We schedule it, we plan it, we make sure it happens.

We talk as much as we want to, which I imagine would be pretty frequently.

We take each other into account when we’re making major life decisions that could affect our relationship, like moving to another state or escalating the involvement of another relationship one of us has. We discuss these things with each other. We care about each other’s feelings surrounding these decisions.

We decide that our relationship is important to us, that we want it to continue as long as possible, and that we want to interact with each other regularly, and if anyone else we know comes along and has a problem with it, we do not—under any circumstances—sacrifice or damage our relationship to appease that third party.

We stick up for each other. We protect each other, when needed. We support each other however we can: physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, etc., when that support is needed. If my friend needs me to take care of them physically, if my friend needs to live with me or needs me to live with them temporarily, if my friend needs me to show up for them somewhere to emotionally support them, if my friend needs me to loan them money and I can afford to do it, then I do it—and they do it for me.

If and when conflict arises, we do whatever we have to do resolve it, no matter how long it takes and no matter how much effort it takes. (Hint: this means more talking.)

Maybe that level of involvement and attention sounds exhausting, but that’s what commitment to a relationship means, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe it’s crazy of me to want to be that involved with multiple people at the same time, the rest of my life, but I believe it’s possible and that I’m capable.

You might think it’s unrealistic because one or both of my live-in partners will feel like my level of commitment to others conflicts with my commitment to them, and all I can say is that I am not a relationship traditionalist or monogamist and no one I love can be or will be either, unless they’re 100% cool with the way I do love and relationships. I’m very open and upfront about who I am, what I think, and what I’m looking for in relationships, and I’ll make it clear from the get-go what my partners are signing up for when they choose to be involved with me. There will have to be a discussion, of course, about what “commitment” means to us individually and what it will mean for our relationships, but there WILL be commitment, even if it doesn’t look like the rest of the world’s idea of commitment.

If celibate asexuality, both romantic and aromantic, can prove anything new about commitment in relationships, it’s that commitment and nonsexual love/nonromantic love are not mutually exclusive. The same goes for polyamory and relationship anarchy: commitment is not a property unique to conventional romantic monogamy but a possibility in all loving relationships.

 

How to get commitment?

Well, assuming you’re an ace involved with another ace, I figure it’s as simple as talking to your friend about it. I know more than one asexual currently in a loving relationship of some kind with a fellow ace, including one who’s aromantic, I’ve heard of other ace/ace couples in traditional romantic relationships (some of which have led to marriage and/or committed cohabitation), and I had a relationship with another ace in the past that at the time functioned as a standard romantic relationship and included intentions for a shared future. I feel like commitment works for us, whether our relationships are romantic or nonromantic, in much the same way it works for romantic-sexual people in traditional romantic relationships. You get to a point where it’s obvious that you and your friend have mutual feelings for each other of some nature and one of you broaches the subject of where your relationship might go.

Bottom Line: you have to ask. You have to be explicit about what you’re looking for. I know, that’s a pain in the ass, but it’s the only way. You have to get yourself some courage and sit the person you love down and say, “I love you, and this is what I want from our relationship. What do you think?” And if they answer affirmatively, you have to continue checking in periodically, to make sure you’re on the same page about the commitment.

I don’t think the question is how to establish commitment in a relationship but how to actually follow through with it.  Being committed means being loyal even when it’s not easy to be loyal. Being committed means finding ways to stay plugged into your relationship no matter what your unpredictable life throws at you and your partner. In my opinion, being committed means that you choose to focus on the positive aspects of your partner and your relationship to such a degree that the flaws look trivial; you accept that your imperfect partner can screw up in your relationship and still be worth loving and giving your attention to.

There is, of course, a fine line separating healthy loyalty and commitment from unhealthy loyalty and commitment. Loving someone so much that you’re faithful to them for many years, no matter how many mistakes they make or your relationship being imperfect is a beautiful thing. A very desirable thing. That’s the best kind of loyalty there is. But we must also love ourselves and put ourselves first and be able to recognize when we’re in a relationship (of any kind) with someone who can’t or won’t meet our needs and desires, who is hurting us more than anything, who is a negative presence in our life despite our loving feelings for them. I’m not an expert on knowing the difference between breaking a commitment because you can’t handle imperfection vs. breaking a commitment because it’s actually a bad commitment, but I feel like a good way to approach is to work on a problematic relationship until you can’t anymore and then walk away if it’s clearly at a dead end.

 

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Filed under Celibate Asexuality, Love & Relationships

Passionate Love Between Siblings and Cousins

So the other day, somebody got to my blog through searching “platonically in love with brother.” This inspires me to write about my views on intense nonsexual love between siblings and first cousins, which is an idea I’ve been enamored with since I was in high school.

 

Some Disclaimers:

My views on romantic/passionate friendship between siblings or first cousins, and on the possibility of two siblings or two first cousins having a nonromantic/nonsexual primary life partnership, are predicated on the ideas that any “romantic” feelings present in a romantic friendship or a passionate friendship (which are, in my dictionary, nonsexual) aren’t quite the same as “romantic” feelings present in a traditional romantic-sexual (or romantic asexual) couple relationship. I don’t know how to describe the difference, especially considering I don’t personally draw any distinction between “romantic” and “nonromantic” love in my own experience anymore, but based on the history of romantic friendship and some of the experiences and positions of other asexuals who have specific romantic orientations, I do firmly believe that for many people, there is this difference between “romantic” feelings in the two types of relationships. Not a huge difference but a difference.

When I talk about romantic friendship or passionate friendship between siblings or first cousins, I am not talking about sex or conventional romantic-sexual relationships. I’m not talking about a prelude to a romantic-sexual relationship. I’m not talking about siblings or first cousins who have either one-sided or mutual sexual attraction to each other. When I talk about a nonromantic/nonsexual primary life partnership between siblings or first cousins, again—this does not include sex or sexual attraction.

I don’t believe that a primary life partnership is naturally based on romantic sexuality. In other words, wanting to be someone’s primary life partner does not have to be based on romantic and/or sexual attraction to that person. A person can want to be life partners with someone, without wanting a sexual and/or romantic relationship with them.

Likewise, wanting a romantic friendship with somebody isn’t based on sexual attraction or on the kind of romantic attraction that lends itself to a traditional romantic-sexual couple relationship. There’s a reason why romantic friendship or passionate friendship is its own category; these are different relationships from romantic-sexual couplehood or fuck buddy relationships or abstinent romantic relationships.

 

What is Romantic or Passionate Friendship?

Essentially, it’s a nonsexual relationship that contains “romantic” elements. The love and connection felt in a romantic or passionate friendship is on par, emotionally speaking, with the love and connection felt in a traditional romantic-sexual couple relationship. It can be just as intense, just as vulnerable, just as deep emotionally. And usually, the friendship also includes openly emotional expressions of love, a good measure of sensual/affectionate touch, quality time spent one-on-one, and a lot of emotional intimacy.

I personally distinguish between romantic friendship and passionate friendship, which I explained in a previous post. Now would be a good time for me to mention that I also see romantic friendship and passionate friendship as different from queerplatonic relationships.

Romantic friendships were historically same-sex, for the most part. They don’t have to be. Neither does passionate friendship. Neither of these relationships have to happen with a person of the gender you’re romantically and/or sexually attracted to: meaning, a straight woman could have a romantic friendship with another woman, a straight man with another man, etc. Sexual attraction/desire doesn’t figure into these friendships and neither does couple-type romantic attraction (although, I’ve heard other aces say that their attraction to a potential romantic friend is definitely on the romance spectrum for them).

Romantic friendships and passionate friendships can be non-exclusive and in practice, it’s probably more common for them to be non-exclusive than exclusive. That means, romantic or passionate friends don’t necessarily restrict each other from having other romantic/passionate friends or having traditional romantic-sexual partners. It is theoretically possible for someone to have both a romantic (sexual or asexual) partner and a romantic friend.

 

Special Love: Siblings and First Cousins

I believe that once in a blue moon, a pair of siblings or a pair of first cousins can have a connection with each other that naturally lends itself to a romantic friendship, a passionate friendship, or a primary nonromantic/nonsexual life partnership. I believe that love between siblings or between first cousins can be extremely deep and intense, affectionate and even passionate—all without being sexual or romantic.

I think it’s quite rare. But it’s possible. I’ve come across a few examples in my study of romantic friendship in history, and these examples were actually fairly “recent”–19th century. (They also, interestingly, were cross-sex. Not same-sex.)

And mainstream psychology be damned, I do not for one minute believe that these sibling or cousin connections are in the same category as outright incestuous relationships. No, not even the so-called “emotionally incestuous” kind. (Fuck you, Freud. And everybody who espouses that all intense, deep, or highly emotional love is based in sex.)

A romantic friendship or a passionate friendship between siblings or first cousins isn’t about sex, doesn’t include sex, isn’t about unhealthy co-dependency, skewed power dynamics, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc—which is what the vast majority of incestuous relationships include. (Note: I do believe that there is such as a thing as consensual incest between adult siblings that’s not at all abusive. And first cousins have been having romantic-sexual relationships with each other, consensually, for thousands of years. These are both still different from romantic/passionate friendship between siblings or cousins.)

A romantic friendship or passionate friendship between siblings or between first cousins isn’t really any different than such friendship between two non-related individuals. I think the only significant difference is that your blood connection can add a sense of specialness or emotional intensity to your relationship—which is awesome. You more likely than not have a long, shared history with your sibling or first cousin, which means you know each other extremely well, and even if you don’t, that doesn’t take away from that primal sense of connection or familiarity with each other. That’s not something you can feel, in exactly the same way, with anyone unrelated to you—no matter how much you love each other. It’s simply a unique quality to love between siblings or first cousins.

If two siblings or two first cousins have a romantic friendship or even a passionate friendship, that doesn’t prohibit either person from having romantic and/or sexual relationships with other people or take away the desire for romantic and/or sexual relationships with other people. Hell, even if the siblings or cousins are primary life partners, which means they’ve made a commitment to operate identically to any standard married couple in terms of cohabitation, financial interdependence, emotional interdependence, etc, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to have romantic and/or sexual relationships with other people. Unless they’re both aromantic and asexual, I have a hard time believing that the siblings or cousins would choose not to have romantic and/or sexual relationships outside of their romantic friendship.

And you don’t have to be polyamorous to have both a romantic friendship and a traditional romantic-sexual couple relationship. Sure, it might seem more intuitive for a poly person to have a romantic friendship or a passionate friendship in addition to a romantic/sexual couple relationship, but it all depends on how you view your romantic feelings, emotional intimacy, friendship, etc. I’ve seen monogamous aces express a strong desire for romantic friendship outside their primary romantic partnership and still feel like their monogamy in the partnership would be intact. I’ve heard of aces (myself included) who would love to have more than one romantic or passionate friendship at a time, regardless of whether they’ve got a life partner or not. A monogamist can separate romantic friendship from romantic couplehood in whatever way they like, and as long as everybody in the situation is cool with it, there’s no reason why that monogamist should think of their self or be thought of as polyamorous. Some people don’t even consider their feelings for a romantic/passionate friend, however intense or emotional or passionate, as “romantic.”

A romantic friendship or passionate friendship does not have to also be a primary life partnership. Likewise, a primary life partnership between siblings or first cousins doesn’t have to be a romantic or passionate friendship. How involved they are with each other, how much their lives intertwine, how much “romantic” energy they have in their relationship is totally up to them and can vary on a case by case basis.

The siblings or cousins might have a primary life partnership in which they live together by choice and put each other first forever but keep their relationship pretty standard for a close, nonromantic/nonsexual relationship (big love but not really any “romantic” overtones to their behavior or interaction). They might have a romantic friendship that is not primary, that doesn’t include cohabitation or financial interdependence, that happens alongside one or both of them having a life partnership with somebody else—and those outside life partnerships may even be prioritized above the romantic friendship. They might have both a passionate friendship and a primary life partnership with each other. They might be in a polyamorous type situation where one sibling or cousin is life partners with both their sibling/cousin and with a romantic/sexual partner.

Whatever the configuration of relationships in the lives of a sibling or cousin pair in a romantic friendship, a passionate friendship, or a life partnership, as long as everybody’s needs and desires are being met in a respectful, supportive, loving context—it’s all good.

 

On Weirdness, Beauty, and Familial Passion

It should come as no surprise that I personally don’t find sibling or cousin romantic friendship/passionate friendship/life partnership weird. I am a radical relationship anarchist and a celibate asexual, after all. But really, since I was a teen newly identified as asexual, I have found the idea of passionate love between siblings or first cousins so beautiful and so special, it makes my heart ache a little bit. I adore the idea of siblings or first cousins being nonromantic/nonsexual life partners. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I’m a celibate asexual, and familial love is presumably both nonsexual and potentially Super Serious and Significant….  But I’ve always had such a strong admiration and longing for blood-kin relationships, particularly sibling and first cousin ones, that are passionate and warm and tender and affectionate and made of real love. Not just the bullshit, assumed “love” that most biological families claim to have but spend no real time expressing or feeling. I mean, love that’s viscerally palpable, love that leaves you thinking of the other person when they’re not around and smiling about a memory you share, love that makes you want to be with them as much as you can, love that feels good to you on a regular basis. Love that comes out all the time and makes itself obvious between you and your sibling or cousin.

Most people, I’m sure, would find the concept of a romantic friendship between two siblings or two cousins really weird, maybe inappropriate, maybe covertly incestuous—simply because most people sexualize all intense emotion and love, all forms of emotional/sensual touch, etc. They would look at a pair of siblings or cousins who have a romantic friendship or a passionate friendship or who want to spend their lives together as partners (regardless of their romance/sex lives with others) and say to them: “You’re too close” or “you’re too emotional about each other” or “you have an unhealthy relationship” [implied: you must want to fuck each other or you’re just pathologically crippled to a point where you can’t form primary romantic-sexual relationships like you’re supposed to].

But here’s the thing: just because this type of love is very, very rare doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or unnatural. And I’ll say the following until I’m blue in the face and die of oxygen deprivation: passionate emotion, intense love, sensual touch, emotional intimacy, and even a desire to spend your life with somebody is not universally, automatically, unavoidably sexual or romantic in nature. Just because it is for you, doesn’t mean that it is for every human being alive on this planet and every human being who’s lived in the past or will live in the future.

If you are born to a sibling or a cousin with whom you share a love and connection so profound that you can have a romantic friendship with each other or that you want to be nonromantic/nonsexual life partners, that is unbelievably beautiful and special and I hope to Christ that you recognize it as something to be pursued, protected, etc.

Sibling and cousin relationships come in every possible variation, and the most common seem to be apathy and animosity. Siblings and cousins hate each other or dislike each other or feel totally uninterested in each other, they’re rivals, they carry around 20 year old grudges against each other, they spend their adult lives still brooding about their sibling being the favorite or their cousin being their grandparents’ favorite. Sometimes, your sibling or cousin is someone you have nothing in common with. Sometimes, they’re a douche bag. Maybe you grow up and you’re on friendly terms with each other, but you just don’t feel drawn to each other emotionally. You’re related, but you aren’t even casual friends.

Most people have sibling and cousin relationships that fall into one of those categories. At best, a person’s good friends with their sibling or cousin, but they’re long distance and absorbed in their own traditional marriages, nuclear family life, etc. Their love is lukewarm. In any case, of course those people aren’t going to understand how someone could be passionate, intimate, emotional, loving with a sibling or a cousin, for totally nonsexual/healthy reasons. They have no personal frame of reference to understand. They can judge and condemn someone else’s unique relationship as wrong or unhealthy or incestuous or whatever because in their world, those are the only other options besides the relationship sucking. Forget the peanut gallery.

If you’re somebody who’s got a sibling or cousin connection that’s romantic friendship material or life partnership material, you are colossally blessed. Who cares if the world doesn’t understand? If your relationship with your sibling or cousin makes you happy and nurtures you spiritually, that’s all that matters. Cherish and honor your sibling or your cousin, the relationship you have with them, and allow it to reach its fullest potential. This is tremendous love we’re talking about here. Love that you can’t go out and find with just anybody. Love that you can’t replace. It’s utterly unique and special, and it should be treated accordingly.

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Filed under Aromanticism, Celibate Asexuality, Love & Relationships