Commitment, Family, and Friendship

Ace Admiral says “I would really like to see a community discussion about commitment, what it means in our unique kind of relationships, and how to get it. I would really like this to move to the top of the 102 discussion of asexuality, for people to talk to their friends and families and bring this issue to a broader audience for broader contemplation.”

I agree. Maybe this should be a Carnival of Aces theme (hint hint).

After I read that post, I realized that’s exactly the thing which makes my family relationships more secure than my friendships.

As I’ve written before, I trust my family relationships more than my friendships. It’s definitely not because I like my family more than my friends. I don’t. But that’s the thing. When I stop liking my friends, or when we simply stop spending time together/stop contacting each other, our friendship fades away. My family relationships do not do that, regardless of how much we don’t like each other or don’t contact each other.

In other words, my family relationships have a deeper committment.

This is not true about all families – but my family happens to have people who take family relationships very seriously. My father helps relatives who he actively dislikes merely because they are his relatives. My mother and aunt offered significant assistance a cousin from a branch of the family we hadn’t had contact with for over fifty years, and that was only because of her blood relationship. If that’s not committment, I don’t know what committment is.

Of course, the commitment in my family relationships are not absolutely unconditional. If someone in my family tortured and killed a young child, I certainly would not defend them, and I think most of the people in my family wouldn’t defend them either. But it would take something much more serious than being pissed off at somebody to break the commitment.

And knowing that the comittment is hard to break is what makes them feel secure.

But it’s a double-edged sword.

It means that, even if a relationship turns toxic, it cannot easily be broken off. I have ‘broken up’ with one of my relatives, I have clearly discussed this ‘break-up’ with my parents, and I am following their advice: talk to other relatives about this on a need-to-know basis. However, even though my mother is also now avoiding the relative in question, she has also said that we are still family, and that there is still a basic bond intact. In other words, it’s more like a separation than a divorce.

Since none of my friendships have ever carried that level of committment, they are much easier to break up, and thus carry much less risk of getting stuck in a toxic relationship.

I would be very interested in forming friendships or other non-romantic/sexual relationships with a high level of commitment. I am not sure how to do that. And I know that commitment comes with its own risks.


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Do I Know that I’m Not Demisexual?

This is yet another submission for the July Carnival of Aces.

I thought that I said all I wanted to say about ‘doubt’ last week. But then, just a day after that post went live, I was struck by a thought…

ZOMGOSH, maybe I’m demisexual.

This is a thought I have have once in a while (as in, about once a year).

I have been exposed to enough people of various kinds, some of whom are considered very sexy, for me to conclude that my lack of sexual attraction means that I am on the ace-spectrum (not to mention my really low sex drive). It is the explanation which best fits the evidence. But have I been in enough relevant emotionally-close relationships to determine whether or not I am demisexual?

My emotionally close relationships right now are such that sexual attraction, even if I were an allosexual, would be … limited (long-distance with most communication in writing, involving non-humans, etc.) So, if a demisexual were living in my shoes, they would be, for all practical purposes, experiencing life as an asexual. Things weren’t always this way … but I feel that I do not have enough history of *not* being sexually attracted to people in emotionally close relationships to rule out the possibility that, if I had a certain kind of emotional bond, I might experience sexual attraction.

I do not think this is a terribly important question since, right now, I am experiencing life as an asexual. But if I am demisexual, I might be surprised by sexual attraction in new close relationships. And if I am not demisexual, then I should not expect sexual attraction, and keep my peace with that.

I think people on the ace-spectrum experience so much doubt partially because our discourse is really new. The term ‘demisexual’ as it’s currently used in ace-spaces did not exist ten years ago.

However, another reason for so much doubt is that it’s much easier to prove something with positive evidence – ‘I generally feel sexually attracted to people who present as very femme’ – ‘I generally feel sexually attracted to nerds’ – ‘I generally feel sexually attracted to people with long hair and lean muscles’ – than to prove something with negative evidence ‘hmmm, I generally have not felt sexual attraction to anybody’.


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Clearing Up Doubts by Reading About Others’ Experiences

This if for the July Carnival of Aces.

As a young teenager, I had assumed that I was heterosexual, since I wasn’t particularly attracted to females (though there was that one time). I was not developing much special interest in males either, and I’ve already talked about these years of wondering whether I was really hetero or possibly ‘asexual’.

What really cleared up these doubts was reading about asexual people’s experiences, mainly on blogs. That made me realize that I am more like ‘asexual’ people than ‘heterosexual’ people. The more I learn about the experiences of people on the ace-spectrum, the more certain I am that I belong here.

My doubt about my sexual orientation is not the only doubt which I cleared up by reading about people’s experiences online. It also cleared up my doubt about ‘having Asperger’s Syndrome’ (NOTE: I understand there are problems with referring to it this way, but since this was the way it was framed for me at the time, I am going to use this phrasing).

Once, someone I trusted isolated me, and, without warning, told me that I must have Asperger’s, that it’s the cause of all my social problems, and that she can save me. She also told me that my parents also have Asperger’s, so they could not help me. At the time I knew very little about Asperger’s or autism, and I was so unprepared for this conversation that I didn’t spot what, with hindsight, were obvious red flags. When I tried to question her assertions, she ran right over them (unlike me, she was prepared). I didn’t even have the mental space to wonder, if I really had Asperger’s, why didn’t any of the child psychologists who had observed me when I was young notice it?

I came out convinced I had Asperger’s, that it was a Terrible Thing, that I coudln’t talk to my parents about it, and that I would have to turn my life over to the person who had convinced me of it. I cried that entire night.

What snapped me out of this … was reading about people who identified with Asperger’s describing their own experiences.

I then realized that these people are very different from me, and that my experiences are much more like the experiences of ‘neurotypical’ people. I also learned that some of the ‘facts’ that person had told me about Asperger’s … were false.

I support neurodiversity, and now I think that being any kind of austistic person is okay (aside from the effects of neuro-normativity, which is a problem with society, not with autistic people). The point is that I got out of the grip of that person who wanted to manipulate my life.

I am grateful to the ace-spectrum people who have shared their experiences over the internet, and I am also grateful to the people who identify with Asperger’s who have shared their experiences over the internet. They have both been a great help, albeit in very different ways. One of the reasons I keep this blog going is that, perhaps, sharing my experiences will help somebody else.


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Why Identify as Panaesthetic?

When I first encountered the idea of aesthetic orientation, my first reaction was ‘why bother’? But after a few moments, after it sunk in, it made sense.

I am panaesthetic. I like looking at beautiful people of all genders, and between beautiful women, handsome men, and gorgeous people who defy the gender binary, I do not have a preference (well, I do have preferences, just not based on gender).

The fact that I find certain people aesthetically pleasing is one of those things which made it just a little harder to realize that I am aro-ace. If I thought somebody was pretty, that MUST mean I am sexually/romantically attracted to them, and that what I felt towards such people is like what sexual-romantic people feel towards their crushes, right, RIGHT?

Nope.

I want to look at pretty people. I do not want to have sex with them or get in a romantic relationship with them.

It’s not just something which confuses questioning people on an introspective level. It’s also something which certain people use to “prove” that we are not really aromantic/asexual – ‘AH HA HA HA! You think that person is pretty, you can’t really be aromantic/asexual!’

Our culture has wrapped lots of different things into sexuality. One of the things we ace-spectrum folk are doing is breaking it down, so that we can find out what we have in common (in my case, I do experience aesthetic attraction, like most people), and what does not apply to us.

I do not think aesthetic attraction is particularly important, but the concept does bring a little bit more clarity to my experiences.


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