Call for Submissions for August Carnival of Aros: Relationships

This is my call for submissions for the August 2019 Carnival of Aros.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, the Carnival of Aros is an event where a bunch of different people discuss a theme related to aromanticism every month. Most of this discussion is via long-form blogging, but things like podcasts, videos and more are also options! If you’d like to learn more, see past and future themes, or even volunteer to host yourself, visit the Carnival of Aros WordPress.

At the end of the month, I will collect a master post with links to all of the different submissions with a short summary attached.

This month’s theme is relationships.

Prompts

  • Do you feel like interpersonal relationships are important to you?
  • How has your orientation impacted your relationships with individuals?
  • How has your orientation impacted your relationships to the communities you belong too?
  • What are the most important relationships in your life?
  • What does an ideal relationship look like to you?
  • Do you consider attraction or orientation to be important in the relationships you chose to develop?
  • Do you consider yourself polyamorous or a relationship anarchist? What do those words mean to you as an aromantic person?
  • How do you feel about your familial relationships? Are they impacted by your aromanticism at all?
  • How should the aro-spec community build relationships with other communities?
  • How do you feel about various models that a-spec communities have come up with to talk about non-traditional relationships?
  • What does the term “queerplatonic” mean to you?

How to Submit

Leave a link below in the comments to your submission as well as your name and pronouns (You should be able to do this even if you don’t have a WordPress account). If you would like to write something but don’t have a platform, feel free to fill out the contact page saying you’re interested in having me host your writing! We can exchange email from there (this does require that you have email address!).

Also fill out the contact page if you’re having issues with the comment section for some reason.

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Pillowfort is down right now, so I guess I’ll put this post here instead.

So, like, during the all of the Tumblr ace bullshit, something I saw exclusionists say a lot was something like “asexuality (and various other “MOGAI orientations”) weren’t actual orientations because they don’t describe what genders you’re attracted to.” As a trans person, this really bothered me.

I feel like this obsession people have with bringing gender into their attraction is something that leads to misgendering a lot of the time and I don’t like that. Refusing to change how you label yourself after your significant other comes out as a different gender, or coming up with ‘inclusive’ sexualities with definitions about how you’re attracted to “men and masculine people” are some of the more common examples I can think of.

And this viewpoint crept into other arguments exclusionists were making- there was one particular strawman that seemed to come up a lot, a cis man who identified as straight until discovering that one of the people he was attracted to was actually nonbinary. Exclusionists were insisting that he was actually straight and a chaser.

I just feel like limiting orientation language to “what gender you’re attracted to” doesn’t really help me personally. My orientations are all based a-spec language, not gendered language. There are a couple of reasons for that.

So, first off…technically, I am attracted to all genders. So I should just use bi, right? I don’t feel comfortable with that though. Just the way that most of the bi spaces I’ve interacted with (ie Tumblr) really feel like they emphasize the attraction part, which is especially uncomfortable for me as an a-spec person. And even that feels really gendered- if you’re a man, you’re expected to talk about you’re attraction to men primarily, if you’re a women then you have to talk about you’re attraction to women exclusively, non-binary people can talk about either I guess but they still have to talk about how “gay” it makes them all the time, and anything else is a “straight” relationship. It just feels like the gender of both me and the person who I’m attracted to is something I’m expected to be talking about all the time and I kinda hate it.

So, couldn’t I identify as pan? You know, the whole “I don’t care about gender at all” definition. But I still feel like you run into a lot of the same issues that you do in bi spaces. And I feel weird because “I don’t care about gender” seems to be more widely interpreted as “and so I’m equally attracted to all genders” (which, again, feels like it’s talking about gender too much). Which just isn’t true for me! I’m genderally attracted to men more than any other gender.

Then there’s the disconnect between who I’m attracted to and who I could actually see myself being in a relationship with. And at this point that’s really just non-binary people and butches? I have enough issues with men and honestly I feel super disconnected from 90% of the women I meet because of gender things so like…how am I supposed to label myself? Based on who I’m attracted to or who I’d rather be in a relationship with? I doubt either of them are ever going to be particularly relevant in my life, which makes it even harder. So I just call myself aro. Gender just isn’t a factor in how I identify anymore.

The Doctor and Orientation

[Note: This has been crossposted to Pillowfort]

So, Coy brought up ace Doctor headcanons and it made me start thinking about my own personal interpretation of the Doctor’s sexuality and orientation.

The first time I ever heard the word asexuality was on Radio Free Skaro, a Doctor Who podcast, back in 2013 or so*. One of the hosts, Chris, disliked the arc between the Doctor and River Song because he headcanonned the Doctor as asexual. If you asked me until a few minutes go, if asked about their sexuality I would have probably said the same thing without too much deeper thought on the issue.

But who likes simple answers on orientation when you could a complicated, interesting view on the whole thing? 😉

The first issue, of course, is that they are an alien- so who the hell’s to say orientation and sexuality frameworks would even make sense to them?** There’s at least one mention of Time Lords reproducing asexually in some of the extended canon, and going from that we can assume that Time Lord’s aren’t going to have the same relation to sexuality, gender or sex that we do. If we were to describe them in our terms, then “asexual” is certainly a label that would make sense- but again, that is a human term, and if that’s the norm on Gallifrey it’s likely they don’t have a label for it at all, similarly to how heterosexuality is treated as the default in many cultures here.

But the Doctor ~isn’t like other Time Lords~. For one, they don’t seem to like them that much- the Doctor did run away, after all! And the Doctor loves humans. Given that we know that they’ve identified as both male and female now, they seem to be completely happy with human classifications for their gender. So it’s possible that they would identify with human orientations as well.

I also feel like I’ve seen people talk about viewing the Doctor’s orientation as a bit more fluid- at least from regeneration to regeneration. After all, they’ve had substantial personality changes (and now a gender one!)- so why should their sexuality stay the same?

Now, it can get into some troublesome stereotypes about asexuality and aromanticism in the details, but I do really like the general principle behind this view of their orientation. I don’t really have specific evidence to point too- it’s more a general frame that I think could be fun to insert our own (fan?) fiction into instead of analyzing the canon.

It’d be a neat exercise, too, to try and see how an alien who is absolutely delighted by all of the little nuances of humanity would try to conceptualize their identity in relation to our cultures. Would how they identify change not just from regeneration to regeneration but depending on their closest relationships at the time, and the cultures those people come from? Would time travel itself impact their identity- being in different time periods and cultures and thinking of themself differently because of it? There are so many possibilities!

If anyone knows of any meta or fics that deal with the Doctor and a fluid sexuality orientation like that, let me know! I’d love to read them.

*Listen at your own risk, by the way. I haven’t listened to it in a while and even though the hosts are liberal and better than what you’d imagine from most straight white geeks there are probably jokes that haven’t aged well-and I definitely know there were a lot of dirty ones, which is probably relevant if you’re reading my blog!

**I think 12 made a flippant remark at the end of last season about gender and sexuality being fluid because Time Lords are aliens, buuuuttttt it was Moffat writing so I don’t really know how much this counts towards legitimate world-building.

On being out

[Cross-posted on Pillowfort]

I’m not out to anyone in meatspace and I always feel so guilty about it. My family probably won’t kick me out, or cut me off, or put in me in any physical danger. I’m white, and not a trans woman, and I’m not super-visibly disabled, so I’m probably not at risk of extreme violence if I come out to my classmates. So why don’t I come out?

Part of it is my time on Tumblr, I think. When you constantly hear about how you’re not really oppressed for your identity, or that the part of your identity that really matters to you is nothing compared to the “SGA” parts of you (whatever that’s supposed to mean, when you’re gender-queer)…it feels like I should be out, that I’m privileged and should have no problems declaring my identity to the world. So I feel guilty that I’m not out.

Part of it is just how messy and complicated my identity is. In the online spaces where I am out, even trying to describe what exactly I feel like is almost impossible! And that’s even before you get to the issues that I have with communicating pretty much anything. It’s easier to be out online when you can edit yourself- not something I really have the privilege saying aloud.

Part of it is my disability. I have Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) which makes me terrified with opening myself up to people. And my identity is something so personal to me I just don’t want to deal with people in meatspace knowing it about me. It’s easier to share online- I can always block people if they react in a negative way. And it doesn’t feel as ~real~ to me, when it’s online (as real as anything can feel to me, anyway. But that’s a whole different topic).

It probably doesn’t help that I don’t have anyone in meatspace who I feel comfortable with. My parents always used to tease me about having “crushes” that I never actually had. They made me so uncomfortable, because of course the assumption was that I was a girl who liked a boy, or, if not that, then a girl who liked a girl. The possibility that I wasn’t a girl, or that I didn’t like anyone, never occurred to them. I told them I didn’t like anybody but they didn’t believe me.

After a while, my parents stopped teasing me about crushes. I’d say I was grateful but it’s hard to notice an absence like that and actively appreciate it. And besides it was replaced with…other things that made me uncomfortable.

And instead I got car rides where my mother tried to tell me that “It’s just like having a special friend. Why don’t you want that?”. And “There’s something wrong with you.”

I moved four states away for college.

I think I’m out to my sibling as ace? Maybe? And attracted to men? My memory of the time is really foggy…I remember feeling bad though. Like it was forced out of me.

I think there was a time too, when I was sitting with a bunch of friends at my birthday party. They had had a discussion about sexualities? Genders? I can’t remember which. And they asked me, and I said “I don’t know.” Because that’s always the safe answer, right?

And later, we were downstairs and about to have cake, and one of my friends started talking really loudly about how “all of us are queer, A and B and C are queer, and [deadname] doesn’t know!”, and my parents were there and they could hear but I didn’t know what to do.

One of my other friends told them to shut up, though. For that I’m grateful. I don’t think my parents heard.

So. I’m kinda out? But not really. And it’s weird, and messy, and I feel guilty about it, somehow.

Introduction

Hey everyone, I’m Oliver and my pronouns are they/them.

I’m planning on using this WordPress mostly for cross-posting stuff from Pillowfort. Since it’s such a new site I figured it’d be a good idea to have a back-up. Most of the content I plan on posting will be related to a-spec stuff.

Feel free to comment on things here as well, though! I want to try and involve myself more with the a-spec blogosphere and this seems like a good way to do it.

Thoughts on definitions of sensual attraction (because there are way more than I thought)

[Note: this was originally posted on my Pillowfort blog]

Trigger Warnings: There is some outdated language in here about what we would now call “allosexual people” which isn’t exactly a slur but does have some unfortunate connotations.

I’m not quite sure if this should count as a trigger warning but? I’ll be marking any links from my Tumblr blog with a * so you can skip those if you want. The blog has a large background image that’s a pin-up sort of thing from a music magazine.  It’s not terribly explicit- really you just see a lot of leg, and there are not any genitals/boobs/flat chests showing. It’s probably not anything most people will find triggering but it’s kinda in a grey area so just a heads up!

So, to start off I found this definition on Coy’s recent thread on Aropocalypse about the Split-Attraction Model:

Sensual Attraction – 

When you’re attracted so someone through your senses (other than looks). This may mean that you’re attracted to the smell of a person or you want to be touched or hugged by a person. “I want to hug/kiss you”

Which is…quite different from my first exposure to the term, this tumblr post*:

experiencing sensual attraction but not sexual attraction is so weird, like you see a hot character and someone’s like “oh wow they’re hot!” and you’re like “YEAH!” and then they’re like “i wanna leave hickies all over then and kiss the hell out of them and bite them and shit!” and you’re like “YEAH!!!” and then they’re like “and then fuck them senseless!!” and you’re like “NO!!!!”

And the definition of sensual that I would have first seen (assuming that the search function on my blog is actually working properly and any other posts with that information weren’t deleted in the recent purge of NSFW content) comes from this post*:

Sensual Attraction

A desire for physical contact as in hugs, kisses, etc. with a specific person

The definition Echidna provided includes an example that is similar to the definition that I was familiar with- wanting to be touched/hugged by another person- but it’s the definition itself I take issue with.

For one, by defining as sensual attraction as not being about looks, it seems to imply that blind people can only experience sensual attraction, especially compared to the definition of aesthetic attraction that they provide:

Aesthetic Attraction –

When you’re only attracted to the way a person looks and desire nothing more. “You look nice”

…which in turn seems makes it seem like only sighted people (I think that’s the correct term, do correct me if I’m wrong) can experience aesthetic attraction. Elizabeth has similar critiques of the way “aesthetic attraction” is typically defined and goes into more depth.(the definitions given sexual and romantic attraction, oddly enough, make no explicit mention of looks factoring into those kinds of attractions).

And as for my personal experiences…looks do matter in determining whether or not I am attracted to someone- other senses can factor in too, like the sound of a person’s voice, but the most distinguishing part of sensual attraction to me is the desire to do “sensual acts” (kisses, cuddling and kink mostly) with that particular person, not why I feel that kind of attraction.

Seeing how these two definitions were in conflict with each other, I decided to Google “sensual attraction” just to see what other definitions there were, and came across this AVEN thread from 2009 where the term‘s creator explains the definition.

[EDIT: Siggy found an example of sensual attraction being defined back in 2006! So this actually wasn’t the very first use of the term.]

In responding to a new poster’s thread, I posited a new term: sensual attraction. It seems to describe something I’ve been reaching for to explain why romantic asexuals aren’t just friends with their partners. That there is something else going on. The romantic scale would go something like this:

sexual attraction – having a desire to engage in sexual acts with a certain individual (intercourse, orgasmic interludes).

sensual attraction – having a desire to engage in sensual acts with a certain individual (kissing, cuddling, hugging, hand holding, etc).

romantic attraction – having a desire to engage in a romantic relationship with a certain individual (dating, marriage, etc).

So for instance, if I have a crush on someone, I would never have sexual attraction. But I do experience sensual attraction. I want to engage in sensual acts with that person. I also need certain sensual acts in a relationship or I wouldn’t feel satisfied.

It’s obvious that not all asexuals would experience sensual attraction. Aromantics would not experience any of these. Some romantics may not feel sensual attraction, yet they might engage in sensual acts to please their partner just as they might with sexual acts. Some romantics (me for instance), would have romantic and sensual attraction. Sexuals would most likely have all three (and some gray-As in certain contexts I guess).

There are quite a few things to note here: for one, this was a term that was originally intended for aces to distinguish their romantic relationships from those of allosexual people, and as a way to denote that they were not platonic in nature. It is explicitly something that the coiner, at least, does not believe aromantics could ever experience, but that not all alloromantic people feel sensual attraction.

As was pointed out in the replies to this thread (…six years after its creation), aromantic people are able to feel sensual attraction. Somebody else also critiqued the idea that sensual attraction was a part of a sliding scale between sex and romance. I agree with both of these critiques- the sliding scale especially leans heavily into amatonormativity, and so does saying that aromantics can’t experience that particular type of attraction.

This also gets into the arguments that Coy has been making about how the split-attraction model isn’t well defined– sensual attraction as a term predates the split-attraction model, and was originally intended to be heavily related to romantic attraction, yet the first definition I saw explicitly referenced a “split model”.

In the Urban Dictionary definition of sensual attraction, we have a different issue: instead, sensual attraction is so divorced from romantic attraction that they are seen as mutually exclusive:

a desire for touch ie: hugging, cuddling, hand holding, kissig, etc. but not a sexual or romantic relationship with a person. no lust is involved

While this is true in my particular case, obviously that’s not true for everyone.

It hasn’t really come up too much so the differing definitions haven’t really been an issue so far in my interactions with other people but clearly they do exist and its a good idea to be aware of these differences in case they come up in the future. This is hardly an exhaustive list of definitions, just the ones I’ve personally come across.