Edge of Everywhere

Archive for October 2008

When you’re close to someone who is in a relationship, their partner can end up feeling jealous of you. What if that person and their partner are sexual and you happen to be asexual? Does that change anything?

In this situation, asexuals have the ability to play the “harmless amoeba” card and let the jealous partner feel assured that we are not a “threat” to their relationship because of our lack of sexual attraction/desire. However, I am not entirely comfortable with this, because it somehow implies that in a way, non-sexual relationships “don’t count.”

So what I’m trying to figure out is, how can we assert the importance and value of our close relationships with sexual people without being seen as a threat to their partners? How can we fit comfortably in each other’s lives?

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I’ve been a big fan of the TV show House since its first season, and I’ve always appreciated the fact that it doesn’t revolve around soap opera-esque relationships between the doctors the way Grey’s Anatomy does (although I eventually got hooked on that show as well). The most interesting relationship on the show has always been the one between the brilliant but misanthropic Dr. House and his best (and only) friend, the caring yet sarcastic oncologist Dr. Wilson. The end of last season left a giant question mark over the friendship in the wake of Wilson’s girlfriend’s death, which may have been House’s fault. The fate of the doctors’ relationship is a major storyline of the current season, and the subject of a recent TV Guide cover story featuring the two actors, Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard, entitled “Isn’t it Bromantic?”

The word “bromance” has been floating around a lot lately. According to UrbanDictionary, the word “describes the complicated love and affection shared by two straight males.” I think it’s great that both House and the newfound prevalance of this word acknowledge the fact that straight male friendships are subject to many of the same ups and downs as romantic and sexual relationships, and can be equally or more important to men.

I’ve been thinking lately about common negative statements used to decribe women, and how they might apply to asexual women in particular. The one that probably bothers me the most is the idea of a woman being a “tease,” because in my opinion, there is no such thing. The word reveals very little about the woman it is used to describe and a lot about the person who uses it; this person is very often a heterosexual man with bruised ego who believes that he has been denied something—usually sex—after perceiving that a woman promised it to him in some way. The ways in which a woman can make this so-called promise can range from dressing sexily or flirting to kissing and engaging in certain types of physical activity but declining to participate in others. By this standard, an asexual woman, just by living her life and doing what she desires but not what she doesn’t, is inherently a tease in that she is likely to make these kinds of implicit promises countless times but never deliver on them.

In high school, a friend of a friend whom I barely knew in person but talked to online sometimes asked me out—over AOL, as a multiple-choice question. Very classy, I know. I declined. Later, my friend recounted a long car trip on which this guy supposedly spent a significant amount of time ranting about how I was a bitch and led him on—”she led me on” being the more PG-rated equivalent of “she’s a tease.” How did I lead him on? By talking to him on the internet and being nice to him, I suppose.

Heterosexual men need to get it through their heads that women do not ever owe them a date, a kiss, sex, or anything else along those lines—no matter what we do that makes it seem like we may want those things. We shouldn’t have to worry that our words and actions will be misinterpreted and lead us to be labeled as liars and temptresses.

Part I – The Accidental Date

Last week, I went on what one of my friends later dubbed “the accidental date.” This particular friend and I originally met on Craigslist, and we have each met several other friends on there. The last person I met had made a post in the m4w section rather than the strictly platonic section, but he sounded like exactly the sort of person I’d like to be friends with, so I wrote to him and said something to that effect. My aforementioned friend claims that regardless, since his post was in the dating section, our meetup was a date. Certain cues I got from him suggest that she may be correct. I’ve never (intentionally) gone on a date and have never understood the idea of putting any kind of pressure on a meeting rather than just becoming friends and seeing what happens. Therefore, I found myself completely out of my element when suddenly forced to navigate the waters of dating etiquette. I refused his offer to pay for me, and when we parted, I didn’t give him a hug or echo his enthusiastic assessment of the evening. When he said what a good time he had had and that we should meet again, I simply replied, “Definitely. Have a good night,” and went home. Before I turned around, though, I’m pretty sure I saw a subtle look of disappointment flicker across his face. I was sincere about my intention to hang out with him again; after all, we have a ton of things in common and he does seem to be, as I originally suspected, someone I would like to be friends with. I think that I make an awesome friend and that people who have lots of things in common with me should be excited about being my friend, as I get excited about being theirs. But in the world of first dates and second dates and instant attraction, I guess that’s not perceived as being enough.

Part II – More Than (My) Friends?

I was kind of surprised to find myself reacting to his disappointment (or what I perceived to be disappointment) with resentment and even something approaching anger. I thought about how much I hate the phrase “more than friends” and how absurd it would be for this almost-stranger to expect, after less than two hours of time spent with me, some sort of confirmation that he was already on his way to becoming something more than a friend—and more specifically, something more than my friends, my amazing friends whom I’ve known for years and who truly understand me and are there for me. I believe that there are many different kinds and levels of friendship, but am insulted by the suggestion that the addition of attraction or of a physical or sexual aspect automatically elevates a relationship to somewhere above friendship, especially considering the fact that many people who get involved aren’t really friends to begin with. I love my friends and deeply appreciate the unique qualities and benefits of each of our relationships. I think it’s possible (although not necessarily useful) to create a relationship hierarchy based on factors like level of closeness, amount of time spent together, and degree of trust shared. While physical and sexual elements may differentiate some relationships from others, I don’t view those aspects as necessarily relevant to the hierarchy. Coming to terms with my asexuality has forced me to reevaluate (and ultimately reject) the belief that the ideal relationship must necessarily involve a combination of close friendship and physical and/or sexual attraction and/or intimacy.