I’m still not sure what I would want to include in an asexual manifesto (it’s quite a daunting task!), so I instead I want to chime in to this Month’s Carnival of Aces on Manifestos by dropping in a collection of a few past asexual (or potentially asexuality-adjacent) manifestos that may be of interest from an ace history perspective:Read More »
In a recent paper by Antonsen et al., which primarily compared aromantic to romantic individuals within asexual response group, the author also happened to throw out one fact about their control group:
Among allosexual participants only, 13.3% reported divergent orientations.
We did not separate allosexual participants into romantic and aromantic groups, even though a very small proportion of the allosexual participants were likely to be aromantic, limiting our ability to compare the effects of romantic attraction between allosexual and asexual populations.
While the Antonsen group chose not to pursue this line of thought, I am curious what it would bring. How common are divergent attraction or orientation experiences common among allosexual people? How many of those might be aromantic? And what would research comparing aromantic and romantic people among the population as a whole tell us about the human experience? Is the experience of “romance” even something we can isolate for research?
How comment are divergent orientation and differentiated attraction concepts?
The most immediately relevent question for the aromantic community might, of course, be the question of how many allosexual aromantic people there might be out there (or at least, how many people out there might have experiences that would fit with how we use that label).
However, I’d also be interested to see how that compares to the presence of divergent orientation experiences overall, and how that affects how people identify. (For example, among people with divergent patterns of attraction who use a single label, is that label more likely to be based on their romantic/emotional interests? Or their sexual/physical interests?)
I’d also be curious to see research on how common it is for people to differentiate types of attraction/interest as it applies to individual attractions, regardless of orientation. For example, according to a differentiated attraction model, someone who is only attracted to women might be mostly romantically/emotionally interested in woman A, but later might have a mostly sexual interest in woman B, and later a sexual and romantic interest in Person C, etc. What I’m curious about is how often that sort of conceptualization is used outside of just ace and aro communities.
What even is “romance”?
While many aromantic people can tell you that they don’t experience romantic attraction, or aren’t interested in romantic relationships, when it comes to nailing down what “romance” is, both us and our alloromantic counterparts are often left scratching our heads (when we’re not butting heads over differing definitions).
This, of course, can make it difficult to pursue research around things like romantic attraction (or lack thereof), when neither the researchers nor their subjects can figure out how to define their area of study!
Therefore, I’d be interested in seeing more sociological/anthropological/linguistic research into just how “romance” is conceptualized by different groups in the modern day. Do aros and aces define it differently than more general populations? What are common themes in attempting to define romance? How has the concept of romance evolved over time?
This is a submission for the August 2020 Carnival of Aros, on the theme of “Open Questions for Aromantic Research”
This document is a work in progress, and changes will be made as additional information is discovered. If you have any suggestions, corrections, requests for clarifications, or archived copies of missing links that you would be willing to share, leave a comment or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
As some of you may (or may not) know, many aces were taken by surprise on May 8th, 2020 by a flurry of “#aceday” and “#acevisibilityday” tweets that eventually went trending, as well as some complaints generated about things like date choices and vague references to 2015 that probably make no sense to anyone who is newer to the ace community. In the wake of the event, there’s also been a lot of confusion and misinformation going around about what ace day is, when it is, who’s involved, and what its history is.
In light of that, wanted to compile some notes and links to relevant bits of history that I remember from the original ace day campaigns and controversy, which date back to 2015 when it was created by theasexualityblog, as well as a bit about what I have found about what lead to #acevisibilityday suddenly showing up as a trending tag this year (after the event nearly disappearing into obscurity in the intervening years, as well as being previously celebrated for several years on a completely different date).
This is not meant to be a complete narrative of that history; but I hope that the sources included here may be helpful for anyone who would be interested in attempting such a history. Unfortunately, because many of the blogs involved have since changed their names or been deleted, many of the original posts are gone. I’ve tried to provide archived versions or reblogged versions wherever possible.
Please also note that this still doesn’t include the vast majority of commentary – for either event – just because there was so much activity that it would get overwhelming. Instead, I’ve tried to include a sampling of some of the main points I remember seeing as someone active in ace communities around that time. I’ve also deliberately focused on discussions that were occurring within the ace community, rather than reactions from outside the community.
This is my entry for the April 2020 Carnival of Aces on “Names,” hosted by Jam.
Many of you may be familiar with the term “Split Attraction Model” (SAM), which is often used to refer to the idea in ace communities that there are multiple types of attraction – especially sexual vs. romantic attraction – and that some people may therefore use two (or more) different labels to refer to their romantic and sexual orientations.
However, as you may or may not also know, these terms have also been the subject of some criticism – especially regarding the fact that it’s not actually a good proxy for describing the ways many aces use romantic, sexual, and other attraction/orientation concepts, and that it was in part coined and popularized by anti-ace trolls, I’m not going to provide an in-depth discussion of the many reasons some people don’t like using “SAM” in the post, but I do recommend checking out the links above.
Instead, I want to focus on advocating for the kind of phrasing I do like to use: specifically, the concepts of differentiating attraction and differentiated orientations.
This post is for the February 2020 Carnival of Aros, on the subject of “Variation vs. Unity”
One of the things that communities of shared experience and identity often bond over is commiserating over our shared struggles, pains and frustrations. Whether we are looking for advice from someone has been throughout it, support in fighting to overcoming it together, or even just someone who understands that we can vent everything out to, shared pain is one of the big things that bring us together.
Another thing that drives us towards each other is the inability of many of those outside our group to understand or take seriously the problems we face, if they are not targeted by those same issues.
However, when dealing with our pain, we still have to be careful – because the fact that many people outside our group cannot relate to our problems, does not mean that all people outside our group are free from these problems – the forces of convention and normativity rarely restrict their pressures to one single group.
Therefore, we need to be careful when stating that “people who aren’t us can never understand this problem” or that “if a person claims this experience, they must be one of us – or its appropriation”. Because often, that’s not the case.
A Cautionary Tale: Is “Marriage Equality” really a uniquely gay issue?
As a common example of this fallacy, I want to refer to a sort of case example from a tumblr post I saw a few years ago (although unfortunately I no longer have a link to it). The post in question was responding to to a common statement from a lesbian or gay person that went something like this:
“Straight people will never understand what it’s like to be legally denied the right to marry the person you love”
At face value, this doesn’t seem that incorrect – after all, up until about 5 years ago, many same-sex lesbian, gay, and bi couples in the united states had no legal right to marry – and many couples abroad still do not have that right. And even now, it remains uncertain how strong this right is, and while the law now allows, the law often declines to protect people from being fired, harassed, evicted, denied service, or worse just because of that marriage.
And it’s true that straight people, as a general class, have not recently been denied that right solely for being straight.
However, as responses to the post in question pointed out, where this assumption falls apart is when you realize that straight vs. gay is not, in fact, the only axis of advantage and disadvantage along which society is divided, and that many straight people also have other identities that affect their experience, which may heavily affect how they have been treated with regards to the legal institution of marriage. For example”
- First, and perhaps most immediate, is gender identity: many straight trans people (and many of their straight partners)were just as affected and just as involved in the struggle for marriage equality as cisgendered lesbian, gay, and bi people were, due to the way that judgements of who was “male and female” enough to marry were often based on cissexist assumptions and misgendering.
- There is also the consideration of race: Many interracial couples weren’t allowed the right to marry in many US states until 1967 – and many of these couples (and especially their children) are still alive today. When my own grandparents got married, their relationship was still illegal in much of the country! And looking back a little further, there were centuries in the US where black slaves where not allowed access to any kind of legal marriage or relationship recognition, and would regularly be torn apart with no choice in the matter; a legacy that has left an impact on all their descendants.
- While perhaps a less widespread, some states still disallow or even criminalize certain cousin marriages, no matter what the circumstances – some others require both participants to prove that they are sterile first.
Even in addition to de jure legal barriers, there are also many groups today who still face de facto barriers to marriage:
- Many disabled people cannot marry without losing much of the limited financial support they already rely on just to stay alive – it doesn’t matter much whether you have the legal “right” to marriage if excercising it means immediately losing your ability to pay for the food and care and shelter you need to stay alive and enjoy it.
- Widows or widowers (often older) who are entirely reliant on social security spousal benefits (perhaps after years of being a stay-at-home parent to support their partners career) are similarly unable to access marriage without losing their sole source of income (although some of these laws are loosening), as are some low income people who rely on federal benefits that may be cut if they marry.
- Also, because marriage in the US is restricted to binary couples, many poly people or others in relationships with 2 or more serious partners are denied the right to have their partners recognized and treated equally.
And that’s just in the United States, without going into the complications of international marriage situations – or in to the doubleor triple hurdles faced by people who face intersectional disadvantages and are affected by more than just one of these issues at once.
When people reduce the issue of marriage rights to “gay people face this struggle, straight people never have”, we erase all of these groups’s complex strugglies. And when we do that, we also lose the important chance to join forces is in coalition with them. Because that’s the flip side of all this – while acknowledging that the hurts that felt unique might be more common than you thought can be both difficult to work into your identity, and a bit depressing for our worldviews, the other side of it is that it also means there are many more potential allies out there who want to make the same changes we do.
Coalition Building: More people with shared pain means more allies in fighting to stop the pain.
The benefit of expanding our worldviews to recognize other groups that may face similar struggles, is recognizing that we can also connect with these groups in our fight to better our situations. Here again, the issue of marriage law has some relevant parallels:
- Many of the legal arguments for same-sex marriage equality came from the same civil rights arguments used by non-white activists during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, including direct references to the case that legalized interracial marriage.
- Trans people and their partners often joined side by side with other LGB people on the front lines of challenging existing marriage laws and campaigning legislatures.
- Before marriage equality become legal nationwide, some state civil union and domestic partnership legislation was drafted to fulfill the aims of both same-sex couple and also older couples, through the support and lobbying from both groups.
Coalition building is important, because the more people you can find commonality with, the more allies you have who are deeply invested in your cause. And what several small groups fighting along may fail to achieve, a single unified coalition has a much better chance at.
What does this mean for Aromantic activists?
As aro people, when we are often surrounded by non-aros who do not seem to share our struggles, and when aro communities are the first places we find solace from those pressures, it’s easy to assume that we are the only ones in the world dealing with these problems – whether it’s the delegitimization or stigmatization of relationships that don’t include the right amounts of romance, or pressure to engage in types of relationships that we don’t want, or people mocking us for having ‘unnatural’ desires/lacking the “proper” desires (or viewing us with pity and trying to “fix” us).
However, it’s important to realize that although it can seem like it we are alone in the world, we are not the only ones facing any of these problems – and we don’t need to be alone in fighting them.
Furthermore, while ace and aro allyship is one type of potential coalition building, we must not end there. We must also seek out parallels across all axes of identity, as the politics of love, sex, and romance and desire (and the lack thereof) are constantly affected by judgements based in sexism, cissexism, heterosexism/homophobia, racism, classism, and more. Just to get us started, here’s a few examples of areas where I see potential for reaching out to similarly affected groups:
- Coalitions between aromantic people seeking to destigmatize non-romantic sexual relationships, and other sex-positive, queer, and feminist activists seeking to negate the stigma of sex outside of traditional romantic partnerships.
- Coalitions between aros who like alternative living arrangements with non-married housemates, and other single, low income, queer, younger, and also senior housing advocates looking to promote alternative living styles, including better models and paths to co-ownership for non-married co-owners.
- Coalitions between aro folks and POC in breaking down racist assumptions around desexualization, hypersexualization, being shut out of sex, dating or relationship consideration and more.
- Coalitions between aros in nontraditional partnerships with poly folks looking for alternative ways to access legal rights and recognition for important people in your life even without traditional marriage.
- Coalitions with poly and queer advocates to break up the assumption that everyone needs to be in a monogamous, romantic, sexual, long-term relationship, and that any other types of relationship is pointless and not worthy of legal recognition
And that’s just what I could come up with in the last 10 minutes.
Readers, do you have any other experiences of discovering shared points of struggle with other groups? Or do you have suggestions for additional coalition building?
This is my very last minute response to the January 2020 Carnival of Aros, on the subject of “New“, in celebration of my shiny new aro/ace/queer pride swag from the holidays this year.
When it comes to allyship, there’s a lot of talk about the big asks that absolutely vital to being a good ally, like talking time to educate yourself about what it means to be aromantic (or ace, or queer, etc.), trusting people with their own evaluation of their identities and experiences, respecting their labels and chosen relationships, not being cruel or mocking their experiences, not kicking them out, defending them from people who do get hostile, etc.
But once that bare minimum is met, I think one of the things that can make a big ongoing difference is the little, fun, positive things that you can do that show that you haven’t forgotten what my identity means to me, and that you are willing to put in some work to actively support me rather than just agreeing to live and let live in whatever way requires very little work.
To that end, I want to share a few brief anecdotes about some the little above-and-beyond things that friends and family have done for me as allies, that went a long way in making me really feel supported and accepted, in the hope that they might serve as inspiration for anyone who wants to be a better ally to their own friends and family:
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?
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.)
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.
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!