When being aro/ace means you only ever get to be the no-fun naysayer, it doesn’t end well for anyone.

I was talking with some other aces and aro folks in a local group chat about the inevitably akward situation of finding out that someone likes you / is attracted to you, and the stressful part of figuring out how or if to respond (which in the case of many aro or ace folks, can often mean trying to once again figure out how to let someone down more-or-less gracefully).

I ended up thinking about how, despite being a problem for almost everyone (especially women), it somehow still feels like it can be even more stressful as an aro ace person not really looking for traditional relationships, and I think I managed to somewhat start articulating my thoughts on the subject, so I wanted to go ahead and share them here as well:

For me, the discomfort mostly comes from knowing that it’s going to be a lose-lose situation, because they are going to be sad or upset if/when I ever have to turn them down, and then I’m going to feel bad for making them feel bad.

And like, you can logically understand that you aren’t responsible for their attraction and it’s not your fault that you weren’t attracted but like….the empathy lizardbrain doesn’t care, it just goes “you said x and made them sad, that’s bad”. (And I don’t necessarily want to turn that off! Learning to sympathize/empathize with friend’s romance struggles even when I can’t really understand it well myself is an important social skill that’s taken me time to learn).

And sure, playing oblivious can put off the ultimate confrontation for a long time but there’s still that axe hanging over your head in the background. Even if the person knows you are ace and uninterested and does exactly what they are supposed to do and doesn’t bother you about it or ask you for something you both know you aren’t looking for, once you do find out, the weight of that social concern is still there. So it’s not even like it’s their fault for doing something untoward, it’s just a sucky situation all around.

And, to be fair, is I think this can be a thing for everyone, not just aces, but I think the downside of being an ace person who doesn’t date is that I only ever get to be the one saying no, of  only ever being put in the position of having to deal with unwanted attention and the emotionally fraught task of letting someone’s hopes down.

I don’t ever really get to have the fun part of being asked out by someone you actual want to say to, whether it’s for a date or sex or whatever else. I don’t ever really get to have the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when someone makes your day and then you totally make their day in return by saying yes.

And so the weight of always being the naysayer who makes people sad just piles up and up and up.

Sometimes, I wonder, if I instead had the experience of a few bright spots here and there, and the knowledge that maybe once in a while it will work out well, would that make it more tolerable?

November Carnival of Aros Call for Submissions: Aro Community Wishlists

As November rolls around and eventually leads into December, we in the US have now entered the official Holiday Season, with giant sales and advertisements everywhere promising the perfect gifts for your loved ones, and kids everywhere writing out their wishlists for Santa Claus. On a less commercial level, it’s a time when many people start looking for ways to give back to their families, friends, and communities, through gift-giving and philanthropy and more.

In the spirit of the season, I wanted to start building a wishlist of our own for aro communities: what kind of community spaces and resources do you want to see more of, as an aro-spec person?

That’s why for this November Carnival of Aros, I’m proposing a theme of “Aro Community Wishlists” – tell us more about what’s on your own wishlist for the aro community!

Some food for thought:

  • Are there any specific subgroups of the aro community that you would like to see more spaces and resources for?
    • (like allo aros, older aros, lgbt aros, religious aros, aros of color, etc.)
  • Would you like to see more specific types of spaces?
    • (like offline, online, chats vs. forums, closed vs. open, etc.)
  • Would you like to see more specific types of resources?
    • (like coming out advice, scholarships, fictional media, career networks, activist groups, advice for medical professionals, aro wallpaper graphics, etc.)
  • Are there specific types of aro art / swag / t-shirts / merch  / collectibles that you would like to see?
  • Are there specific topics you would like to see more internal community conversations about?
  • Are there any specific subjects you wish the wider public was more educated about?
  • Are there specific actions you would like to see more allies taking?

Also, on a more meta level, I want to remind everyone that Aro Spec Awareness Week is only about 3 months away! One of my hopes for this Carnival is that the wishlists created this month can provide inspiration for future projects for ASAW, and beyond.


How to Participate

To submit your entry to the carnival, you can leave a link to your submission in the comments below, or contact me directly at sennkestra@gmail.com. If you don’t have your own blog, you can also email me your submission text and I am happy to host it here as a guest post.

Submissions are due by midnight on November 30, 2019. (But if you think you are going to be a day or two late, we’re not sticklers – we’re happy to add late submissions to the roundup retroactively)


About the Carnival Aros

The Carnival of Aros is a monthly blogging carnival centered around aromantic/aro-spec identities and experiences! For more information on this project, see its home blog here.

Each monthly carnival is hosted by a volunteer blogger, who chooses any aro-related themes of their choice and issues a call for submissions, which can include text prose, poetry, video, art, or any other format of your choice. At the end of the month, the host will collect the links to all of that month’s submissions into a single masterpost,

We’re also in need of new carnival hosts starting this December – to volunteer to host, see here!

The Economics of Being Alone

This is a submission for the October 2019 Carnival of Aros, on the subject of “Aromanticism and Aloneness“.

On a purely emotional and social level, I don’t really have any objections to “going it alone” in life as single, unpartnered aromantic person. I’ve always had what I think of as a very…self-sufficient personality, I suppose. While I enjoy having a lot of more casual and informal friendships, I’ve never been the type to have super tight “best friend” type relationships where I pour my heart out – my style has always been amicable relationships with large social groups and events rather than the kind of emotionally intimate close friendships that I sometime see others describe.

And when it comes to things like talking about feelings and emotional support, I find that more introspective activities like good cathartic fiction and writing and blogging to strangers on the internet help me process my thoughts and feelings much better than turning to other people in my offline life for direct one-on-one support.

So from that emotional and mental health level, I like to think I do just fine as a single person with no so-called “committed relationships”, whether romantic or platonic or otherwise.

However, where that certainty about my ability to live a sufficient and satisfactory life alone breaks down is when I start thinking of the practical consequences of living alone.

As I’ve gotten to the point in my life where once-immediate concerns about school and job-seeking have receded (at least for the time being), I’ve started thinking more in-depth about what I would want out of a “relationship”, and what steps I would be willing to take to pursue one – not as a hypothetical for future me as I used to think of it, but as a “what steps do I want to take now” kind of thing.

I’ve also reached the point where I now have several years of built up experience on what it’s like to live both alone, and with other people, and without the automatic inbuilt family support structure that I had when I lived at home with my parents as a younger person.

And based on that life experience, I’ve realized that trying to modify traditional relationships (dating, marriage) to fit was going at things the wrong way, because when I actual break down the parts of a relationship that I want – cohabitation, sharing some (but not all) resources, mutual caring during illness, having someone to come home to and talk about the cool things I saw today, short term commitment – and the things that I don’t want or need  – emotional codependence, romantic or sexual exclusivity, lifelong commitments, family recognition – I realized that what I want isn’t a modified boyfriend/girlfriend/romantic partnership. What I actually want is basically just a housemate: I’m not looking for the romantic or emotional support or closeness of having an intimate partner, I’m looking for the more material and social comforts of splitting the bills and having someone to come home to so I don’t become just a hermit.

And frankly, those material commitments of having someone to share expenses with – whether it’s minimal cohabitation expenses like rent and power bills, or slightly more developed entanglements like food costs and entertainment budgets and travel budgets – are pretty serious.

The Costs of Living Alone

As someone currently living with 4 other housemates in a 5 bedroom house (an arrangement which is honestly close to my ideal for short-term relationships, tbh), I can afford to have nice things like living less than 2 blocks from major public transit, an in-unit washer and dryer and dishwasher, a living room large enough to host 15+ person social events, my own room, a garden area for my plants, and more.

If I were a single person living alone, like I was for a short time a few years ago, I could not even afford to live in this city at all, let alone this county – basic studios and one bedrooms start at like 175% of my current rent. Living in a nice place with a yard and washing machine is even more laughable of an idea.

Beyond just rent, other resources like netflix subscriptions, internet bills, food delivery fees, nice furniture, cookware, and more become much more accessible when the costs are split across a household instead of falling on a single person.

Even in terms of intangible resources, having a household also saves time, when you can distribute tasks like cleaning and repairs and streamline cooking for multiple people. Having other people in the household who I can depend on also means that if I’m sick, there’s already someone nearby who can bring me cold medicine, or help me get soup heated up, or to notice and make sure to get me to a doctor if things start getting worse. It means that I have people onsite that can water my plants if I’m home visiting parents, or sign for packages if they come in while I’m out running errands, or check if I left the stove on when I’m having irrational anxiety.

And it’s not just resources in the home that drive home the costs of going it alone – I think what drives it home even more is how much I notice when traveling.

I was recently looking into the possibility of taking an Amtrak Coast Starlight train up to Portland, or maybe Seattle – maybe taking a week off for slow, relaxed, and scenic rail travel in a sleeper car instead of frantic and tightly secured airports.

However, the thing is that if you want to get a sleeper car ticket, you have to buy a ticket for a sleeper car that sleeps two, even if you are a single person traveling alone. Most traditional hotels are the same way – designed and priced for pairs.  And while I totally understand the reason for that (economies of scale!), it really drives home the extent to which life is just not optimized for living as a single agent.

And that’s why I want – not necessarily a “relationship” relationships, but – a household, or traveling partners, or other people who are willing to commit to sharing resources (be it housing, utilities, hulu passwords, hotel rooms or something else).

Rethinking “Committed Relationships”

When people talk about “committed relationships”, I think that the concept is often based on modifying ideas of traditional romantic/sexual relationships, in the same way that I tried (and ultimately failed) to model my own relationship desires for years. Thus, there’s an idea that “commitment” also means lifelong partnerships like marriage, and often some level of exclusivity (whether emotional, romantic, sexual, or otherwise). And the idea that being in a committed relationship required that emotional closeness and lifelong commitment made me wonder if I could ever make that a reality – and if that was even what I wanted.

But what if we model “committed relationships” after another type of relationship – like, for example, roommates! We can think of the central bond as being resource sharing, rather than an emotional or sexual commitment; and the time as the term of a lease, perhaps, rather than the term of a lifetime. When short-term and mid-term commitments, and pure resource based commitments without any feelings stuff, become options on the table, suddenly the idea of a “committed relationship” (of a sort) becomes both more appealing and seems more achievable.

I like the idea that being romantically/emotionally independent, unpartnered, and “alone” in the “are you single or in a Relationship (with a capital R)” sense doesn’t have to be incompatible with other types of committed relationships (with a lower case r), even if they’re not what we traditionally think of as ‘relationships’ (for example, I get along great with my roommates, any my relationship with them satisfies a lot of my ‘relationshippy’ cravings, but they’re all pretty conventional and I don’t think would ever think of themselves as being in a “relationship” with me or our other housemates, if asked in those terms.)

 

Audience Challenge: What’s your preferred one-sentence definition of “Queerplatonic”?

Several years ago, when working on updating a printed piece for a group I was involved with, I got stuck on figuring out how to define “queerplatonic” in a way that is both clear, and fairly accurate, while also being very concise – the limitations of the specific project required very brief definitions no longer than a sentence or two, and ideally not more than 2-3 lines on a printed pages.

Now, you might be thinking “Silly Sennkestra, you’re never going to be able to explain the full complexity and context of queerplatonic in one sentence”, and yes, that’s true to some extent – but I think it’s still worth trying to get as close as possible, even if the end result is imperfect.

As a result of that project, I ended up polling people on tumblr (click “show more notes” to see the actual responses) – and of course, got several dozen different and sometimes contradictory definitions with varying levels of seriousness, as one does when defining any complex term.

Based on that conversation, and several others over the years, my current most common attempt is something like:

Queerplatonic: A significant non-romantic partnered relationship that complicates the concept of being “just” platonic friends.

Although I think this still has room for improvement, I’m trying to get across a few main points:

  1. That queerplatonic relationships tend to generally be characterized as non-romantic (though even that isn’t always necessarily a hard boundary).
  2. That the history of “queerplatonic” as a term is that it was intended to “queer” or “complicate” the idea that the only two relationship options are “romantic” or “[just] friends”, neither of which are really accurate to what “queerplatonic” is trying to describe
  3. That queerplatonic relationships tend to have a certain level of significance to the people involved above that of some of their other relationships (like aquaintances, coworkers, or casual friends), often perceiving each other as “partners”, “significant others”, etc.

However, since it’s been a few years since I asked around more broadly, and since I’ve been seeing a lot of conversations about definitions again recently,  I’m curious to see again what other definitions people like to use, and how each of us choose to confront the problem of summarizing a complex concept into an overly-simple definition. I’m also curious to see what other people consider the most salient parts of the concept that they want to highlight in any definition.

So, I’d love to hear from anyone reading this – what one-sentence definitions of “Queerplatonic” do you prefer? What do you see as the key points that should be included in any definition?

(Or alternatively – what’s a definition you’ve seen before that you find insufficient, and what don’t you like about it? How would you change it to make it better?)

 

Hers and Addyi in Action: Potentially Lax Screenings, Missing Warnings, and More

While I decided that testing if I would get Addyi prescribed to me by Hers was maybe not a good idea, it looks like reporters at the New York Times did test out the service! (and a few others like it), and well….they have a lot of concerns about the whole business model (not just it’s embrace of addyi).

You can find the full article here: “Drug Sites Upend Doctor-Patient Relations: ‘It’s Restaurant-Menu Medicine’ “

In particular, there were concerns about Hers’ Addyi in particular, and how important warnings about Addyi and Alcohol were deemphasized:

One drug, Addyi, which can cause fainting if taken with alcohol, arrived without the necessary safety warning protocols created by the drug’s manufacturer.

…..

A week or two after reporters were approved for prescriptions, the medications arrived in discreet packages.

A shipment of the Addyi libido pills, from Postmeds, a pharmacy based in Hayward, Calif., came with a colorful “usage guide.” “It’s time to get busy,” the guide said.

The Hers questionnaire, as well as an online message from the doctor, had explicitly warned about fainting risks that can arise from taking the drugs with alcohol. But the usage guide made no mention of it. That potential danger was included only in the required F.D.A. information insert printed in a tiny typeface.

Pharmacists dispensing Addyi “must counsel all patients on the need to avoid alcohol” with every prescription, according to protocols created by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s manufacturer.

Instead, the pills came with a card providing a phone number for a “drug consultation” with Postmeds.

“The idea here is that there must be an added layer of professional counseling,” said Ned Milenkovich, a pharmacist and lawyer with the firm Much Shelist in Chicago.

Cindy Eckert, Sprout’s chief executive, referred questions to Hers and the pharmacies it uses. Hers referred questions to Postmeds. Umar Afridi, Postmeds’ chief executive, said the required medical insert contained the alcohol warning, satisfying the counseling requirements.

In addition, reporters and other interviewed who ordered viagra from Hims reported concerns about the lack of thorough questions and identification from the supposed medical professionals that the service connected them to.  (Hims is owned by the same company and operates in a similar manner to Hers, the company that supplies Addyi via similar methods).

Some states specifically prohibit doctors from relying solely on online questionnaires to prescribe drugs to new patients. Hims, Kick and Roman said their processes were interactive and should not be considered questionnaires.

In Ohio, state regulators said doctors must — at a minimum — communicate with patients in real time, through audio or video, to meet their standards.

But Spence Bailey of Columbus, Ohio, said he had never spoken to a doctor by phone or on video when ordering hair loss medication from Hims, communicating only through the site’s messaging system.

He said he was satisfied, but canceled his monthly subscription because it was too expensive.

Hims said it complied with state medical board rules.

On some sites, it can be unclear who is reviewing consumers’ health data and prescribing the drugs.

A reporter in California who requested generic Viagra through Roman received a message from a doctor, including his name and a link to a page listing his medical school, qualifications and state licenses.

But a different reporter in California, who requested generic Viagra through Hims, received a message without a doctor’s name.

After being asked about the interaction by a Times reporter, the company said it had changed its software to require doctors to include their medical credentials on such messages.


 

Also, in other news: while it’s still anecdotal at this point and thus should be evaluated with a grain of salt, there are reports of Addyi being prescribed off-label for post-menopausal women, despite the FDA approval contra-indicating that use.

I took a look and there have been two official trials by Valeant in post menopausal women – well, more like one and a half, since the second was stopped halfway after funding was pulled for reasons I am curious about but can’t find (maybe related to Valeant’s financial troubles?). Both seemed to show similarly limited efficacy and health concerns to the original research.  (Note that despite the abstracts touting proof of efficacy, the actual effects were minimal and by some measures not even statistically significant). It’s not clear whether Sprout is still actively pursuing this route after re-taking rights to the drug from Valeant, but it’s something to keep an eye on – as well as other possible off label uses.

7 Types of Relationship Commitment that Have Nothing to do with Sex or Romance.

This is a submission for the August 2019 Carnival of Aros, on the topic of “Relationships

When people talk about creating or valuing “commitment” in relationships, it’s often shorthand for advancing through the socially expected steps of the stereotypical sexual-romantic relationship escalator – things like romantic and sexual exclusivity, cohabitation, financial entanglement, legally recognized marriage, and possibly parenthood. These types of commitment are also largely seen as a linear, hierarchical and long-term (if not lifelong) progression of steps.

However, as Jo explains in the link above, the expected “relationship escalator” path of commitment is one that often breaks down when it comes to the lived experiences of asexual, aromantic, and polyamorous people (among others). After all, sexual/romantic exclusivity – one of the standard first steps on the escalator –  isn’t a good marker of commitment if you aren’t looking to be sexual or romantic with anyone in the first place, or if openness to multiple types of partners is a key goal of your relationship.

And once you start questioning that common first step, the rest of the assumptions of the relationship escalator also break down, not just for aces and aros but for anyone interested in exploring more nontraditional relationship models – after all, why would sexual entanglement need to precede financial entanglement or cohabitation anyway? Why does the person you want to commit to emotionally need to be the same person you decide you might want to co-parent with? What if you prefer to have shorter term or more flexible relationship commitments instead of assuming that the only “healthy” way to approach to commitment is to continue moving up and up the escalator for perpetuity?

Instead of an escalator, therefore, I like to thing of “commitments” as a variety of piecemeal “building blocks” that can be arranged in any combination and any order to define a prticular relationship, and that can be added and removed when or if desired. Which is why I wanted to give just a few examples of types of “commitment” that people can have in their relationships – whether these relationships are romantic, sexual, familial, or platonic; short-term or long-term; intense or casual. Some of these are serious, some are more silly, but hopefully all can serve as food for thought.

If you have any of your own examples of commitment that you’d like to highlight, however, large or small, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

1. The Roommates

This is perhaps the most common kind of non-sexual, non-romantic committed relationship that many people will experience in their life. While moving in with friends or even strangers you met on craigslist is, for whatever reason, rarely seen as a life-changing “commitment” in the way that moving in together with a romantic/sexual partner is, the fact is that choosing to eat, sleep, live, and breath and pay rent together with another person for months or years is one of the biggest financial and lifestyle commitments that many of us make. It’s also a good example of how commitment doesn’t always have to be lifelong or open-ended to be important to you – sometimes it might be bound to the length of a lease, or a graduation date, or other deadline, but that doesn’t make the commitment any less real.

2. The Co-Parents

While parenting is often seen as the ultimate and final commitment for married sexual/romantic couples, there’s really no reason that it has to be limited to these groups – after all, many great co-parents and guardians can also come in the form of close family friends, amicable exes, queerplatonic partners, group communes, extended family, and more.  And furthermore, the person(s) that you choose to parent with don’t always have to be the same people that you commit other parts of your life to – divorced couples have been figuring this out for decades, but it can also be an intentional option for those who choose to build their own relationships from scratch. After all, sometimes co-parents can be friends, not lovers, and other partners can stay partners without becoming parents.

3.  The T-Mobile Friends and Family Plan

One of the perks that our society grants to traditional couples and nuclear families is that they are often viewed as a “household” rather than a series of individual units, and granted privileges that less formally associated groups of individuals are not – from serious benefits like discounts on shared healthcare to less life-endangering concerns like discounts on shared cell phone service plans or even things like costco memberships.

As some companies (like the titular example) increasingly begin to recognize that households don’t just have to be traditional nuclear families, many of the group benefits are increasingly available to any other groups who are willing to commit to the responsibility of paying a shared bill.

4. The Poly Password Swap

Alice has an HBO account; Bob has Netflix.; Charlie has Hulu; and Eve has Amazon Prime; with their powers combined, they can form one big happy television binge-watching family! As noted in the example above, resource-sharing with a committed set of partners-in-consumption can be a great way to access services more affordable by banding together in groups rather than as individuals, and the benefits can increase cumulatively as each person brings their own resources to offer.

This sort of shared media-watching potential can also lead in other forms of commitment, like when you have that fellow fan friend who you make sure to watch every new episode with so you can gush about it afterwards.

5. The Designated Emergency Contact

At a minimum, most of us hope to have someone in our life who we can write down as the “emergency contact” that forms are constantly asking for – someone who we can trust to take on the responsibility of helping us handle our affairs and to get in touch with all the right people in the case that anything happens to incapacitate us. While many choose to trust this duty to a family member or spouse, those without those options often also trust it to a reliable friend or convenient neighbor – and even those with “traditional” options like spouses or family around may still choose to trust this to someone else if they think that person is better able to know their wishes, or to stay level-headed in an emergency – or maybe if that person is just more conveniently located.

On a similar level, the designation of more serious responsibilities like power of attorney can represent an even stronger commitment of this type.

This is also a useful example of the ways that commitment doesn’t always have to be symmetrical or reciprocal – maybe Jane might designate John as her contact, but John lists Joe, who lists someone else entirely.

6. The Friend with Literal Benefits

One of the most life-altering benefits that comes with being in a typical “committed” romantic/sexual relationship for many people is access healthcare insurance – while traditionally offered to married spouses and children, modern day employer healthcare plans increasingly allow individuals to offer benefits to any “domestic partner” (and their children), in order to include unmarried couples as well. While these domestic partner benefits are often still couched in terms that imply romantic/sexual relationships and may be difficult if not impossible to access for other types of committed partners, some jurisdictions are started to broaden the ability to designated a beneficiary for certain benefits in much more inclusive ways. And while current marriage fraud laws (combined with the assumed sexual-romantic-cohabitation requirements of marriage) can make it tricky for non-typical partners to access these types of benefits on the same level as more normative couples, I look forward to a future where this can be more of a widespread possibility (at least until we get a proper universal healthcare system that renders this all unnecessary).

7. The Dungeons and Dragons Party

Sometimes commitment can come in the form of commitment to joint social activity or hobby, whether it’s a monthly D&D group, a weekly knitting circle, a biweekly fantasy football league, or something else.

These kinds of social and hobby commitments can also be a great example of how commitments can be made in a relationship to a group or a community that may evolve over time, rather than a set of specific individual relationships.

 

Housekeeping Post: Design Changes

Some of you have probably noticed already, but I’m currently in the process of testing out some different theme and customization options, so the general look of this blog may be randomly changing a lot over the next couple weeks.

Also, while I’m playing around with all these settings, if anyone has any particular theme options or widgets or sidebar content suggestions they are a fan of, I’d love to learn more about what people do or don’t like in blog design!

Atheism and Aromanticism: Viewing Marriage Law as Contract Law

This is an only-slightly-late entry for the May Carnival of Aros, on the topic of “The Intersection of Aromanticism and Religion”.


Author Notes: This is mostly written from the perspective of US Marriage law (with a few forays into UK examples), and so some parts may not be so relevant for those in other jurisdictions. It’s also very hastily written so consider it some brainstorming and an open invitation to dicsussion, rather than the final word on anything.

When it comes to romance, sexuality, and religion, I fall pretty soundly into the void of the “a”s: Aromantic, Asexual, and Atheist. I find that all three are somewhat similar in that they are defined largely as matters of absence – they are traits that would be completely unremarkable and unmeaningful were it not for the presence of something else in the world around us – the presence of romance, of sexuality, of religions – that make their absence in my life suddenly all the more significant.

Of those three identities, there’s one place where they perhaps most frequently come together: the institution of marriage. When it comes to sexuality and romance in common culture, marriage is considered the ultimate celebration of such relationships. When it comes to religion, it’s often the ultimate form of recognition and sanctification, with many major world religions have some sort of marriage traditions as some of their central practices.

But what happens when you don’t have any religious attachments to give it any weight? What happens when you aren’t interested in the sorts of romantic or sexual entanglements that typically form the core of even most non-religious marriages? Is marriage meaningless?

Not at all. Because there is a major part of  marriage that actually has surprisingly little to do with romance, sex, or religion: the modern civil marriage contract.

In fact, when you strip away the sentimental concerns of romance and sexuality and the religious trappings, which may carry a lot of moral weight but no real legal weight, I think you are left with modern civil marriage in it’s most basic form: a standardized contract, entered into by a person and a chosen partner, which is recognized by the state and granted certain rights and responsibilities.

When you think of civil marriage in this most un-romantic form, it is, in essence, a sort of specialized business contract – much like a business partnership or an corporation, it marks a joint partnership between two people; in which they may have certain rights or responsibilities different than what they have as individuals; that governs the ownership and handling of property within the partnership; and a level or recognition by the state, which grants them additional rights and responsibilities and has special taxation rules specifically for these partnerships.

Of course, there are also many ways in which marriages are unique as compared to other business contracts:

  • One of the most major is that unlike business contracts, which are drawn up and customized for each new venture, marriage contracts are standard and non-customizable (outside of additional contracts like pre-nups which may have limited effectiveness) – this has the benefit of making them easily accessible even to the average person without the need for hours of expensive lawyer consultations, but more limiting in their lack of customizability.
  • Also, unlike business partnerships – which an individual can enter into ad infinitum – any individual is limited to a single marriage contract at any given time. Furthermore, marriage contracts are generally limited to only two people; unlike business contracts, which can encompass anywhere from a single person to dozens of directors or members.
  • Perhaps the greatest difference between marriage laws and contract laws is that marriage law can also sometimes grant one very special right that cannot generally be achieved through business contracts or other customized legal contracts (like power of attorney or advanced healthcare directives): the rights of parenthood.  (There are also a few select other personal rights that are linked only to marriage contracts, but this is one of the most major).
  • In addition to unique rights, marriage can also carry additional responsibilities. For example, many states require (at least on paper) that they must be sexually consummated to be valid (although it’s unclear whether these requirements would fully withstand a modern challenge). They may also have consequences like spousal support even upon dissolution, so they can be lasting in ways that business contracts arent.

However, when you think about it, it isn’t necessarily a given that marriage contracts always need to be this way – if you take away longstanding [modern christian] religious prohibitions against multiple marriages, or the social and cultural assumptions that significant relationships must be romantic and sexual before they can be worthy of state recognition –  there’s perhaps no reason from a legal perspective that marriage needs to have all the limitations above.

Sometimes I wonder, what would it be like in a world where marriage law was treated more like a business contract – where marriages or families could consist of multiple people, or be between platonic friends or partners (or even siblings).

Also, what if marriage contracts were more flexible? After all, marriages often combines several things – parenthood, financial entanglement, decision making powers in healthcare, protection from testifying in court, etc. – that could perhaps be seperated. For example, what if it were possible to have one form of legally recognized co-parenting relationship, but without as many of the tax implications? Or a purely financial contract without as many of the parenting and healthcare related rights?

In more recent years, there have been some glimpses into what such a brave new world might look like, especially with the advent of “marriage-like” legal statuses like domestic partnerships and civil unions. While these were originally intended to give same-sex couples the right to marry all-but-in-name, the creation of a dual relationship recognition scheme has lead to fascinating effects, such as older couples who seek domestic partnerships as a way to formalize their relationships without disrupting remnants of previous marriages like social security benefits, or platonic friends who use them as a way to recognize their relationships without sexual/romantic requirements, or religious folk who use them as a convenient loophole to work around certain religious prohibitions.

As both secular and aromantic and asexual movements continue to grow, I am curious to see what other ways that marriage can be re-imagined.

 

 

On the Horizon: Bremelanotide and AMAG Pharmaceuticals

After delving back into the wonderfully frustrating and misinformation-filled world of HSDD medications, it looks like it’s not just Addyi that has new updates. It’s also probably a good time to start keeping a closer eye on Bremelanotide  / Vyleesi, a new proposed treatment for HSDD from AMAG Pharmaceuticals.

Unlike Addyi, Bremelanotide is designed to be used only as needed, about 90 min prior to sex. It’s currently being developed to be injected subcutaneously, after other methods showed too many side effects, in particular with worries about low blood pressure. Other common side effects were nausea, flushing, and headaches, which are sure to put you in the mood!

I haven’t had a chance to dig into the proposed method of action, but news articles seem to indicate that it’s neurological, and attempts to balance inhibitory vs. excitatory process in the brain.

It looks like it’s been submitted for new drug consideration by the FDA with an original expected approval announcement in March 2019, but is likely being delayed after the FDA requested more data on side effects.

They’ve also already set up their own website about HSDD as well at unblush.com. It even has it’s own quiz!

I’ve only spent like 20 minutes looking at it so far because I really need to pace myself with these, but here’s a few first impressions:

  1. If you indicate no recent drop in desire in the first question of the quiz, it cuts you off and lets you know that if there’s no decrease, it’s probably not HSDD – which is more than the addyi site is willing to do, so there’s that at least?
  2. On the other hand, if you indicate that your desire has decreased “maybe a little”, but in the questions about negative impact you only mark “I’m afraid my partner will cheat on or break up with me”….it tells you that’s “relationship impact”, a sign of HSDD.
  3. Also, this quiz is like a buzfeed quiz, it’s weirdly full of reaction images and gifs
  4. Both this and some of the ancillary materials for Addyi mention the Decreased Sexual Desire Screener (DSDS), so that’s something I probably want to look into more when I can.
  5. Overall, it’s still manipulative / kinda misleading, but doesn’t seem to be quite as pushy as the addyi site overall – but on the other hand they may just be biding their time because they don’t actually have a drug they can legally push yet.

 

Update: FDA updates labeling requirements on Addyi/Flibanserin, and new [horrible] Addyi Marketing Campaign

This post has two parts – updated labeling requirements from the FDA last month and a new marketing campaign from Sprout Phamraceuticals  (thanks to redbeardace for flagging it!)

I’m going to address the FDA changes first because I’ve had more time to read up on it, but I think the latter is going to be a bigger concern for ace activists moving forward.

Part 1: FDA Recommends Labeling Changes for Addyi

I missed this earlier, but apparently the FDA released updated labeling requirements for Addyi/Flibanserin last month:

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-orders-important-safety-labeling-changes-addyi

I’ve only had a chance to skim it for now, but it looks like they are downgrading the original warning (which stated that women should not drink alcohol at all while using the drug) to a statement that women should avoid alcohol within a few hours of taking the pill, but may not need to avoid it entirely:

Based on the results of postmarketing studies, the FDA has determined that changes must be made to Addyi’s labeling to clarify that there is still a concern about consuming alcohol close in time to taking Addyi but that it does not have to be avoided completely. Specifically, the boxed warning, contraindication, warnings and precautions, and adverse reactions sections of labeling are being updated to reflect that women should discontinue drinking alcohol at least two hours before taking Addyi at bedtime or to skip the Addyi dose that evening. Women should not consume alcohol at least until the morning after taking Addyi at bedtime.

The FDA is ordering a safety labeling change requiring Sprout to make these changes because the agency was not able to reach an agreement with the company, which was continuing to request removal of the boxed warning and contraindication about alcohol completely from the product labeling. The FDA determined, based on a careful review of available data, that removing this important safety information was not acceptable for the protection of public health.

These changes were based on the results of two additional post-market studies of Addyi/Flibanserin, whcih sprout had requested, as well as additional lobbying from Sprout Pharmaceuticals (which sells Addyi) which wanted to remove alcohol warnings entirely. The FDA’s April 11 post stated:

In the FDA-required postmarketing trial in women who took Addyi and drank alcohol at the same time, there were missing or delayed measurements for blood pressure from when the women were first laying down to when they stood up that are critical in determining the risk of hypotension and syncope when taking Addyi and alcohol together. The FDA’s specific concerns with the trial included:

  • While there were no reports of syncope or hypotension needing intervention amongst women in the trial, the safety precautions built into this trial did not allow for an adequate assessment of this risk. For example, women with low blood pressure while lying down or with symptoms that could be related to low blood pressure (such as dizziness) were not permitted to stand up to have blood pressure measurements taken or had to have repeated blood pressure measurements while lying down until they were high enough for the women to safely stand up. As a result, the data collected had missing or delayed blood pressure measurements from these women while standing.
  • Many more women had missing or delayed blood pressure measurements when they took Addyi and alcohol together compared to when they received alcohol alone or Addyi alone.
  • The amount of missing blood pressure measurements peaked around the time when Addyi’s blood levels were highest in those taking Addyi with alcohol.

The pattern of the missing or delayed measurements provides further evidence of an interaction between Addyi and alcohol that can increase the risk of hypotension and syncope. Given these results, the FDA has determined that the boxed warning and contraindication continue to be warranted. Women at home will not have the safety measures that were included in this trial or necessarily have access to immediate assistance if they were to experience severe hypotension or syncope, which can lead to serious outcomes including falls, accidents and bodily harm.

Part 2: New marketing campaign from Sprout Pharmaceuticals

Addyi has launched a new “Right to Desire” campaign website [content warning: I strongly recommend not taking any medical advice or trusting any claims from this new site.].

This CNN Health article discusses the campaign in more depth and has some initial criticism.

It features a quiz that you can take, which I’m especially worried about based on what they did the last time they decided to have a quiz as part of the very misleading “Find My Spark” campaign.

I’m still looking into the new campaign and will probably need to make another post to actually evaluate it, but I’m like 3 questions into the quiz and we’re already off to a pretty bad start – despite the first questions at least allowing me to state that I have no sex drive* and no problem with that, Addyi doesn’t want to let me think of it as anything except a problem:

Addyi.PNG

It also still uses “HSDD” as their label for the low desire that they are trying to treat, despite the fact that as of the DSM 5 (released in ~2013), low desire is categorized as [M]HSDD only in men, and low desire in women is referred to as FSIAD or “Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder”. Addyi is only marketed to and approved for women. (props to David Jay for pointing that out to me).

Also, I’m still mad that they decided to use purple for this. Adding insult to injury much?


*Technically I do personally consider myself to have a sex drive / libido, just not towards other people, but I don’t think that’s what Addyi’s asking about and I also wanted to see how it treats the many aces who really don’t have anything along those lines.