Posts Tagged ‘sexual exploration’

This month’s Carnival of Aces has been a blast, thanks everyone for participating! If you have a post that didn’t quite make the deadline, you can still post it here in the comments, and I’ll edit it into this post. I’m pretty sure I got everyone who commented or emailed me added in, but if I’ve somehow missed your post, I’m sorry! If you commented later than a certain point, it may be that I just didn’t get a chance to edit the post again between when you commented and when the post was scheduled to go up.

Also, if I got your pronouns wrong, please let me know. I did my best to check which pronouns people use, but sometimes that information is not obvious/clearly marked in a location that’s easy to find.

The topic was Sexual Exploration, which I chose intentionally to be a “double entendre” of sorts, so that we could have posts from both asexuals exploring sexuality (directly or intellectually), and posts from *sexual partners of asexuals exploring their relationships with their partners.

I think the topic was a big success—we’ve had many excellent posts on a wide variety of subjects. Here’s the full list:

From Ace-spectrum folk:

  • From VanillaAbsolute, a discussion of sexual attraction and sexual desire.
  • Isaac discusses one reason he was hesitant to identify as asexual, and learning about sexuality.
  • From henshin, a guest post on her process of self-discovery through sexual exploration.
  • Idealistic Ironist talks about the difficulties of navigating issues of sex as an asexual person.
  • Charles (from Sex, Drugs, and Dr. Who) talks about how sex ed is important for asexuals, too.
  • I wrote about “friends with benefits” and how even though asexuals might want to explore casual sex, the language typically used to describe such relationships is very exclusionary towards asexuals.
  • This post from sidneyia describes her frustrated attempts to explore sexuality in a way that didn’t come naturally to her, before she realized that she is asexual.
  • Norah talks about exploring sexuality before and after realizing that she is asexual, and a little bit about mixed relationships.

From *sexual partners of aces:

  • My own partner, C (she comments here as Cat Pajamas), kicked off the month with her post on Why Date an Asexual? Technically she posted this before I even knew I’d be doing the carnival this month, and then she helped me to hastily solidify my idea for a topic into a single phrase. When I put the call for submissions post up, she was a little upset that the post she’d worked on for the better part of a year fell so quickly from the top of the page, so I backdated the call post to bump it back up. Her post had a record-breaking number of views, with 676 people viewing my blog on Feb 4th, the day after it was added. For context, the previous high record was when the House post went up, at 403 views. Given that her post was so topical and popular, I felt like I couldn’t not include it, even though it wasn’t technically written for the carnival.
  • Laura brings the perspective of a sexual woman married to Tom, an asexual man, for 25 years. The story of how they make it work despite their conflicting orientations, and how they finally are able to move forward after Tom realizes that he is asexual is very powerful.
  • I’m excited to host a guest post by Olivier about how he and his wife explored sexuality before ultimately realizing that she is asexual. As usual, he expresses how they journeyed together with an excellent extended metaphor.

Thanks again for your participation, everyone! I hope those of you who didn’t submit have enjoyed reading along. The next Carnival will be hosted by Pip over at Hobbit Activism.

The following is a guest post for the Carnival of Aces by Olivier, who has been a very insightful and eloquent poster at AVEN for the past five years. I personally have found his and his wife’s story quite inspiring, as I find my own attitude/tendencies to be somewhat similar to his wife’s, and had I not discovered asexuality so early in life, I suspect my own story would might have ended up sounding a lot like theirs. Here is how he describes himself:

I’m a heterosexual in a 22-year relationship with an asexual. Like many longer term sexual/asexual relationships, my wife and I had not heard of asexuality until relatively recently (2007), and for many years struggled with the failures of other theories, such as sex-aversion or libido-mismatch, to adequately describe the dynamics of our relationship. I’m incredibly indebted to AVEN for helping us put a name to something that we’d known about – lived – for decades, but had always misunderstood by looking at it through weird normative lenses instead of just seeing it for what it is.

The post is pretty much as he sent it in, but I chose the title.

______


So. Sexual exploration. I’d been banging around, looking for an analogy (‘cos I like analogies!) when the one I wanted sort of slapped me in the face: exploration! Or in a less 19th-century-pith-helmet way, finding somewhere nice to go on holidays together.

First, a bit of personal background. I’ve always got the impression in asexual spaces that sexual exploration is seen as something natural for sexuals to do lots of, and very much an optional thing for asexuals. I don’t necessarily disagree, but that’s not really been my personal experience. I have pretty vanilla tastes, and so in some senses I’m pretty easy to please sexually – not much exploration required. Just pack me off to the nearest beach, or city full of theatres and museums, or rainforest with waterfalls, and I’m happy. My wife on the other hand, knows that these sorts of things are generally regarded as good holiday experiences, but they do nothing much for her. Some people might decide that they’re basically a homebody and leave it at that. But not my wife, her natural reaction is to go exploring.

And so it was for us at the start. We’d do sexual stuff that I found really quite fabulous, and that my wife was putting a lot of effort into. As people who’d never heard of asexuality, and who saw both ourselves and each other as heterosexual, this seemed to me to be a perfectly normal way to approach sex and relationships. But then it would stop. And when it started again it would be something different, approached with gusto. Until it stopped. In hindsight it’s easy to see this for what it was – an asexual who thought she was sexual trying to find the thing that would do it for her. At the time however, it just seemed like the girl I was crazy about was just way more sexually adventurous than I was. Now, that’s not a bad thing, at all, but it is really, really, really, the wrong expectation to take into a long-term sexual/asexual relationship. Drama and confusion, of course, ensued.

While I was wondering what was wrong with that nice beach town with cool places to hang out, my wife would be planning a few weeks in Afghanistan to see if an element of danger made travel more fun, or a month in a place where nobody spoke a word of English, just for a challenge. And some of these places I enjoyed, and others not so much, but being with her certainly broadened my horizons. Problem was, and is, that even places that ticked all the boxes for her in theory, she didn’t much enjoy in practice. For all that drive to explore, there turned out not to be anywhere she particularly enjoyed going. And while she liked some of them well enough once she was there, she still thought that none of them were worth what you had to do to get there – airports and expense and lots of boring standing in queues.

So what’s a guy to do? My first tactic was to deal with all that boring stuff for her. Spend weeks planning. Get all the details sorted. Have things she liked – good books, tasty food – on hand for every step of the way to make all the transit fun. But when you’ve planned the perfect holiday in your head, there’s only one possible outcome: disappointment. And so with our sex life, until we finally admitted what we knew all along – all that exploration and adventure is basically not going to work for us.

So what to do?

Firstly, take a deep breath and get some perspective. For all the fact that sex is not what either of us hoped or planned, we’re ridiculously well matched and happy in every other department. In travel terms, we may not to get to travel much, but we’ve made sure our home is a great place to be, too.

Secondly, our compromise is to do stuff sexually that’s quick and not very adventurous, but is still something. Ironically, this is what works best for my adventurous wife, and leaves less adventurous me wanting more. Not at all what we would have predicted, but it works well enough for us. So it’s like taking a short drive to a beach we both like instead of spending a week in a resort, which would be torture if one of us didn’t want to be there.

And, you know, that’s not the worst, or most uncomfortable way to live. Sometimes I still get the travel bug, and sometimes even a drive to the beach is too much for my wife, but on the whole, it works, and it works well – simply because it’s shaped by the sort of people we both are. Sometimes all that exploring just makes you want to stay close to home.

I planned to write my post for the Carnival of Aces quite a while ago, but something came up this month that made me reconsider what I had planned to write about. I’ve decided to go with the original idea, but make it more generalized than I had originally planned. My blog is receiving a lot more attention lately (by several orders of magnitude!) than it normally does, so I’m being more cautious about what I talk about here.

Today, I want to talk about having sex with friends, and how while it may not seem intuitive, it might be a choice that some asexual people do want to make, and they can come out of it just fine. But the language we use to describe relationships like that tends to exclude asexuals, so it can be an even more difficult minefield to navigate than engaging in sexual activity while in a romantic relationship.

Back when this blog post by Snowdrop Explodes* about the phrases “friends with benefits” vs. “fuck buddies” was written, I stuck a link to it in a draft and decided to come back to it later, but then forgot about it until now. In it, Snowdrop says that he prefers the term “fuck buddies” because it is more honest than the euphemistically named “benefits” that also imply that friendships don’t normally come with benefits. In his words:

So how come the only “benefits” that are worth mentioning, or making special mention of, are sexual favours? Why is the rest of it considered not to be benefits of friendship, such that the only friends who come with benefits are the ones who’ll let you fuck them? Do you think that it is too literal-minded of me to suggest that “friends with benefits” means that all other friends are “friends without benefits”?

I don’t think it’s too literal-minded at all. At the very least, it shows that everything else in a friendship is being taken for granted. I think it’s very much worth considering the implications of the language we use to describe relationships like this on a literal level, because it says something about how we value certain things and devalue others. If on a cultural level we truly valued friendships as highly as sexual relationships, the phrase “friends with benefits” wouldn’t sit right with most people, and it would fall out of use.

I disagree with Snowdrop’s use of the term “fuck buddies” as basically a synonym for FWB, since I think (and he does note that this is how he sees others using the terms) they do indeed refer to different kinds of relationships, or at least, the same relationship viewed with very different emphases. If you say you have a “fuck buddy,” then you are saying that the primary activity that you do with that person is fuck them, just like if you say you have a “drinking buddy” or a “knitting buddy,” you’re saying you primarily drink or knit with that person, respectively. The activity is the focus, not the friendship itself. If anyone describes a friend as a “_____ buddy” to me, I will assume that they do hardly anything else but [fill in the blank] together. With the phrase “friend with benefits,” however, you indicate that the friendship comes first, and the “benefits” are an added bonus, although the fact that this particular thing is the only thing that gets to be called a “benefit” still devalues friendship.

The other term that I think really needs mentioning is “casual sex,” which wikipedia informs me has no set, commonly agreed-upon meaning. The way I tend to view it is as a wide umbrella term for different kinds of sex outside the context of a romantic relationship, including both one-time encounters with strangers and, on the other side of the spectrum, habitual encounters with friends. So both fuck buddies and FWBs are engaging in a type of casual sex, and while the relationships may be similar, the two phrases have a different emotional tenor.

To demonstrate… if I were in a relationship that I considered basically a FWB-type arrangement (for lack of a better term), I would be hurt if I found out I was being described as a “fuck buddy” to others by my FWB. Because to me, that means they consider the rest of our friendship to be shallow, nearly meaningless. It strongly implies to me that should the sex ever stop, so would our friendship.

I personally can’t imagine a situation in which I would be okay with having a relationship that focuses solely on sex. I always want to be friends first and foremost, and that includes in romantic relationships. I’m not the type of person who would be comfortable having sex with strangers, since there are so many considerations that I need my sexual partners to keep in mind about me in order to have a truly positive sexual encounter.

But with a friend? Maybe that’s possible.

(more…)

Apparently we didn’t have anyone doing the March carnival, so I volunteered! To that end, sorry that the call is a little bit late this month. I know that February is a short month, so it’s a little bit extra annoying because it leaves people with even less time to write. I think I will post the roundup on the 3rd of March to make up for it a little, although that’s quickly becoming standard practice for these anyway.

What is the Carnival of Aces?

A blog carnival is an event in which various people write posts around a single topic. These posts are then collected at the end of the carnival and linked together by the carnival’s host. The Carnival of Aces is a blog carnival about asexuality, hosted on asexual blogs, and it’s a fantastic way to get people talking about asexuality. If you’re an asexual blogger having writer’s block, it’s a great way to keep ideas flowing. The carnival needs volunteers to host the next several rounds, so if you have a blog and you’re interested in doing it, please go visit the master post to volunteer!

Theme: Sexual Exploration

This is sort of meant to have a double meaning. First and foremost, I want to hear from asexuals, but I also want to hear from their sexual romantic partners, because it’s kind of difficult to find perspectives from them. This may sound like a topic that’s too narrow to include a lot of asexuals, but I actually intend it to be fairly broad. Consider these questions to get you started:

  • Are you sexually active? Have you ever considered becoming sexually active? If so, why did you make the decision to become sexually active or not to become sexually active?
  • How informed are you about sex? Have you made efforts to educate yourself about sexual health even though you may never plan to have sex? If so, talk a little bit about why you value sex education even if you aren’t interested in sex yourself. If not, I challenge you to look into it some more, and report your findings. Try to discover something you didn’t know before.
  • Are you gray-asexual or demisexual? What are your experiences with sexual attraction, and how do they inform your overall identity? How do you relate to and explore your more sexual side?
  • Are you fascinated by sexuality on an intellectual level? What sort of things fascinate you about it?
  • What are some of the positive/interesting things you’ve learned about sexuality just by being part of a culture where the majority of people are sexual? What do you understand about it? What don’t you understand about it and would like to know more about? (Try to do this without any angry ranting! Don’t focus on the negative stuff, that’s not the point.)
  • Have you ever made any earnest attempts to explore sexuality (on an intellectual level, on a level of physical intimacy, whatever) and been shut down because you’re asexual, and the others involved thought that you couldn’t understand, wouldn’t be able to handle it, or for some other reason related to your asexuality?
  • Do you ever make sexual jokes? How do others respond to an asexual making such jokes? If there are any other similar situations where you’ve said or explored something considered sexual? How did others who know that you’re asexual respond to that?
  • Have you ever had casual sex or sex with a person who was a friend, but not a romantic partner? If so, how did that go? Was it successful, or just a big mess? If it was a messy situation, do you think there is anything that could’ve made it positive and safe for both of you? If you haven’t but would consider it, why?
  • Have you ever explored any kinky/BDSM activities, even if they were not sexual to you? How did it work out for you, and how did the other people involved respond?
  • Are you in or have you ever been in any sort of happy, successful relationship involving sex? How did you make it work? Are there any specific tips you have for other asexuals in similar situations? If you are happily partnered to an asexual person but not asexual yourself, how do you make it work? What challenges do you face, and how do you overcome them? What advice would you have for any other sexual people wanting to date an asexual person, or for an asexual person trying to relate to a sexual partner? If you’re low on ideas, you might try reading this post by my own partner to get some thoughts going.

Obviously not all of these will apply to everyone. These are just some potential ideas. By all means feel free to supply your own!

How do I submit a post?

You can leave a comment here with a link to your post or email the link to grasexuality [at] gmail.com. The soft deadline for this month is March 1st, although since it’s a short month and the call was posted late, you have until March 3rd to make sure your post is included when the round-up first goes up. If you submit a link to me after the round-up post goes up, I will still edit the post to include it, but your post may not get quite as much visibility as it would if it were included from the start. Please do not link me to any posts written before February 1st! Posts must be new and written sometime this month. You can link to older posts you’ve already written in your submission, but the point of the carnival is to generate new ideas and discussions, so the submissions themselves must be new.

I don’t have my own blog, can I still submit something?

Absolutely! I host guest posts here on my own blog, so if you’d like to submit one, please email me at grasexuality [at] gmail.com and I’ll be happy to put it up for you. Even if you do have a blog, maybe you don’t want to host it on yours because it’s private, or maybe asexuality is not something you want to discuss there for whatever reason. If you would, please provide a short bio for me to include at the top of your post. If you are not comfortable doing that, however, you can submit anonymously as well. If you would, please provide a short bio for me to include at the top of your post. Please review my guest posting guidelines before submitting.

By all means, please feel free to link this call post around so that more people are aware of it. The more submissions we get, the better!