Kink, Asexuality, and Me

[My post for the March Carnival of Aces]

I’ve been kinky for literally as long as I remember. In preschool and kindergarden I was already having fantasies, telling myself stories as I fell asleep at night, having my toys keep other toys as ‘servants’ and practice corporal discipline, making myself a whip out of jewelry cord.

Kink and asexuality have been intertwined for me from the beginning too. When I was 12 or 13, I came across the first mention of maybe-I’m-not-alone for the former – an article on S&M on a website for adolescent girls I frequented. I remember thinking, ‘this is pretty much exactly like my stories, except that mine don’t have sex in them, and mine don’t have me in them’.

Coming into the two was also linked. After years of not knowing about my orientation – reading sexuality books while not knowing where I fit, thinking of this as another part of my general alienness, having the idea to ask a speaker my high school’s GSA brought in ‘what are other ways to tell if I’m gay or not, if I haven’t been attracted to anyone and therefore can’t use that’ (but not actually doing it) – I finally found the word and the concept ‘asexual’ on TV Tropes when I was 19. 

Following the link to AVEN, one of the first posts I made was about my kink – about how sometimes power dynamics and pain in movies and such aroused me, and sometimes I just really liked them, but it’s not about sex and I don’t want to be in a power dynamic relationship myself and are there any other people like this around.

There were. I got linked to Fetlife, which I proceeded to explore and eventually follow into my local community, got more stories of other’s experiences to help me in my efforts to figure all this out and conceptualize it and understand how it might work for me. 

I’m still working on that. I’m probably always going to be working on that, because it’s a huge world both out there and here in my own mind, ever-changing and with seemingly infinite variations. 

It’s taken me to a lot of cool places. I know much more about the kinds of things I like (role-play to take my stories into the real world, something I wrote about hesitantly in that first post and have had rather amazing times with since then; masochism both in and out of said role-play; and a whole world of things that, while not actually giving me kink-feelings, are quite a bit of fun anyway). 

I’ve thought about how these feelings work for people. Some people just like things, the same way they might like rollerblading or singing – for the physical or mental experiences, because it’s fun or intimate or stress relief or any number of other things. Some people have kink-feelings like I have kink-feelings – captivated by particular lines in books or scenes in movies, maybe (or maybe not) thinking of ways to bring it out of the page. Some people’s kink-feelings are sexual feelings. Some people’s aren’t. Some people’s vary. Some people have a kink drive and some don’t. Some people have both a sex drive and a kink drive, and some people have one subsuming the other, and some people don’t.

A lot of these people aren’t asexual. Clarisse Thorn wrote an article a bit back that this always makes me think of, where she wrote: 

“there are also unmistakable ways that BDSM feels different from sex. There is something, bodily, that is just plain different about BDSM, as opposed to sex. I often find myself thinking of “BDSM feelings” and “sexual feelings” as flowing down two parallel channels in my head … sometimes these channels intersect, but sometimes they’re far apart. The BDSM urge strikes me as deeply different, separate, from the sex urge.”

She quoted another person who said they felt like they don’t have the language for talking about these things that doesn’t use sexuality (and in fact then referred to the work the asexual community is doing in this regard).

I’ve definitely had this problem. When I reach for words to express my kink-feelings, all I find are words already tied to sexual-feelings, and that therefore never feel right – ‘hot’, ‘erotic’, ‘sexy’, ‘horny’. I have to make do with words like ‘interesting’, or phrases like ‘catches at my mind’, while wishing for the existence of some kind of parallel-but-seperate vocabulary I could use. 

Meanwhile, I work on conceptualizations of my own. I’ve told people that the way it seems to me, my kinkiness took over my empty sexuality wiring and now proceeds to run all the lights itself. The same things most +sexual people’s sexuality gives them – fantasies, interest in fanservice, desire – my kink gives to me instead, in its own way.

There’s still a lot of things to struggle with (or against). It’s hard for me to find material that would be my erotica, because most of what exists is all about sexual-feelings and/or sex, and that’s not what I like. I feel the lack of things to draw on when creating – most stories I see with power dynamics  also tie them in to sex or sexual-feelings, and in the absence of material to go to, it’s hard for me to conceptualize the things I like and want. I want people who share my interests, a corner community of my own I could go to. A community means more ideas, people sharing the things they have and making more inspiration and material and not having to invent it all yourself while knowing that’s really beyond your ability. I look at other communities, and wish a lot that I knew how to find that. 

I worry about compulsory sexuality – about events with fetish-wear requirements (haven’t run into any yet myself, fortunately, but I know they’re out there), or just about people looking at me oddly for my leggings and t-shirt and preference that said t-shirt stay on if possible. I recently had a very, very bad experience in a scene that can be partly traced back to my anxiety about not wanting sexual things where others might. 

But even as I struggle with these things, I’m glad and grateful for all the good things. For the people who came before me and were there to answer my AVEN post. For the other people working on words and conceptualizations and variety. For the wonderful experiences and thoughts and everything I’ve had, and everything that made that possible. 

These are some of the places I’ve been and am. These are two central, vital, and often intertwined parts of me. I’m quite curious to see what else they’ll show me. 

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The personal and the societal: What do I mean when I say ‘kink’?

{reposted from my kink blog here}

As a general rule, when I say ‘kink’ on my kink blog, I am using it as a way to say ‘I have a thing for’. I have a thing for punishment, I have a thing for honorifics, etc. And, it seems that a lot of people use it in this same way (case in points, kink memes). This usage can then means several things.

  • “This thing gives me specialfeelings. They are a particular kind of specialfeelings that are kink feelings”.
  • “This thing thing gives me specialfeelings. They are sexual feelings.”
  • “This thing gives me specialfeelings. They are are particular kind of specialfeelings that are kink feelings, which are a subset, a superset, or in some other way related to my sexual feelings”.

(The first is the one that is the case for me).

However, I also use ‘kink’ in a way that means something beyond the personal. If I talk about ‘kinky people’, I don’t mean ‘people who have things for the stuff I have a thing for’. I mean something wider than that. Well, what do I mean?

Now, the one thing this could mean would be ‘they have a thing for some thing(s), in one of those aforementioned ways. Just like I have things that give me specialfeelings, they have things that give them specialfeelings (though their things and specialfeelings are possibly different from mine)’.

However, in practice, there’s often another distinction. Often, kink doesn’t just refer to having specialfeelings for anything, it refers to having specialfeelings for things outside the mainstream. So, if I were to have PIV sex with someone as equals, this would not be considered a kinky activity even if I had a thing for it, while if I were to tie someone up, this would be considered a kinky activity whether or not I had a thing for it.

I do think both definitions have their uses. The second is important for group identity in the face of social non-inclusion, and generally acknowledged as such. However, it is also important to not lose sight of the distinction between ‘I have a thing for this’, and ‘having a thing for this is outside the social mainstream’. Because personally, I don’t have a thing for either PIV sex or general bondage, I do have a different kind of feeling about both of them, and the fact that one is considered kinky and one isn’t has no bearing on this for me.

Meanwhile, the first is useful as a way of thinking about things. Thinking of things in terms of ‘what do I have a thing for? What gives me specialfeelings?’ (as opposed to in terms of ‘this is How This Is Done, this is the Way of Things’) is important, and it’s important for everyone, including the people whose ‘what gives me specialfeelings?’ does end up lining up with the cultural mainstream.

Conceptualizing Relationships

{reposted from my kink blog here}

As someone for whom being able to conceptualize things is very important to thinking and feeling about them, and who also has both a practical and theoretical interest in relationships, including non-mainstream relationship structures, I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to conceptualize relationships. I also repeatedly run into issues that show me holes in various existing conceptualizations.

Zack was trying to explain to me that he likes one book series more than another because of the lack of friendships in the second, and we spent a bit of time with me arguing with him and him trying to explain because I couldn’t figure out what he was actually talking about. The moderator of a blog on alt relationships stated that they don’t understand the difference between a queerplatonic relationship and a very close friendship. I for at least the second time ran into the problem of not knowing how to refer to a significant-other relationship that is sexual but not romantic. Etc.

At the moment, the conceptualization of relationships that works best for me in terms of capturing everything I want to be able to capture is a combination of two axes and a tag system.

The two axes are used to plot two measures of significance: 1) How emotionally important a relationship is to you, and 2) how large of a role this person has in your life. Emotional importance runs from ‘complete strangers’ to ‘focus people’, with focus people being the term I’m using for ‘most important people’ – people who would be your ‘hostages’ for the second task of the Triwizard Tournament, who would be the best targets if someone wanted to blackmail you into something or haunt you with visions of horrors, for whom you would drop everything if they needed you or were in trouble. Role-in-your-life is about time and ‘utility’ – how much do you interact with this person, are they meeting some of your day-to-day physical and emotional needs, etc.

For some examples (note: I’m using some personal examples because I find this works best for me when thinking, but I’m basically making up the exact numbers here, and they should not be taken as any kind of declaration of who is how important to me and such):

  • My best friend is very emotionally important to me, however I see her about once a year and don’t talk to her much more often than that.
  • Some villains will abandon their right-hand minions in time of trouble, because while these people are practically useful for what they do, they’re not emotionally important to the villain at all.
  • Zack and I used to live closer to each other than we do now. This change decreased our presence in each other’s lives, but did not decrease his emotional importance to me.

RelationshipGraph1

The tag system covers everything else. Is this relationship sexual? Is it romantic? Is it a Relationship? (I’m using capital-R Relationship to mean the ‘we’re in a relationship’ kind of relationship, wherein this is how the people involved see it and think of it). Is there a legal bond involved? A biological connection? A financial connection? D/s? Is one person in authority over the other? Do they have shared responsibilities? Etc.

This allows me to answer the earlier questions. A queerplatonic relationship is distinguished from a close friendship by the ‘+Relationship’ tag. The thing Zack wants in books is relationships that are high up on both axes, but do not have ‘Relationship’ ‘romantic’ or ‘sexual’ tags (in other words, are –Relationship, -romantic, and –sexual).

It also allows me to talk about some other things I want to talk about. For instance, I’ve been struggling for a while on how to define ‘significant other’. This gives me a definition – ‘significant other’, to me, is the intersection of ‘very emotionally important’ and +Relationship. Likewise, I now have a definition for what ‘primary‘ means to me – it is the intersection of either-or-both ‘very emotionally important’ and ‘very large role in life’, and +Relationship. So, a life partner can be a primary partner without being emotionally important (as, say, for a sociopathic villain), and a significant other can be a primary partner without having the largest role-in-life (as, say, in a long-distance relationship).

Meanwhile, when I talk about culturally conceptualized ‘idealized monogamy’, I mean that in our culture it is considered the right way to do things to have a relationship that’s in the top right corner of the graph (very emotionally important and very large role in your life), that is +Relationship, +romantic, +sexual, and preferably +married, and additionally that no other relationships in your life should be that far in that corner, or have those tags.

So – possibly more adjustments to this system as I do more thinking, but meanwhile, this is what I have.

Special Cases?: Differing Philosophies on Non-Monogamy

{reposted from my kink blog here}

So, some amount of time ago, I was reading one of those ‘rules for non-monogamy’ lists (unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find this particular one again), and one of the points listed was ‘have an exit strategy’. This point was talking about having a plan to end any of your non bounds-primary relationships, to use in the case where your bounds-primary decides that they can’t handle you having that relationship anymore. And, this being one of those times when seeing someone for whom something works differently than it does for me makes me realize the existence of these multiple possibilities, this led me to some thoughts.

In the set of ideas on relationships that is prevalent in our culture at the moment, relationship partners do not have the right to control most elements of each other’s lives. If I don’t like one of my partner’s friends, or if they don’t like one of my hobbies, we can try to discuss this with each other. We can express worries or concerns. We can decide how and whether to address the other’s concerns. If this is a serious enough dislike, we can end up parting over it. But, unless there’s a serious effect on our lives together (my partner’s friend is stealing from us, or I’m neglecting important household responsibilities to engage in my hobby), we do not have the right to expect that because we don’t like this about the other, the other needs to put an end to it.

Sex, similar intimacy, and relationships are the major exception to this. They are a special case. In mainstream ideas, I’m expected to want my partner to not have these things outside of me, they’re expected to want the same of me, and it is accepted that we should abide by each other’s wants in this.

Some kinds of non-monogamy keep these as special case, while having a different idea of what the people involved might want. In this non-monogamy, each partner does not put a blanket veto on the other partner’s outside sex, similar intimacy, and relationships. However, they still have the right to more specific vetoes – ‘don’t go to this restaurant’, ‘don’t do this specific sex act’, ‘all other partners must be approved by me’, etc.

On the other hand, some kinds of non-monogamy do not. In this kind of non-monogamy, I have no more right to tell a partner they can’t date or play with someone else than I do to tell them they can’t play chess with someone else. I can express concerns and expect them to be addressed in some way, and not dismissed. I can share feelings I’m having and we can work through them together. I can, if there’s a situation we cannot come to a mutually acceptable place on, decide to end the relationship. But I do not expect that my desires on my partner’s other sex and relationships should take precedence over theirs, just like I do not expect this for other parts of our lives.

[Note: While I at least currently think that type two is the kind that works best for me, none of this is a value judgment of any kind. Different things work for different people, and as long as there is open communication, consent, etc, whatever works for whoever is totally fine.]

Primary

{reposted from my kink blog here}

So, I’m reading some polyamory writings, including a bunch of definitions, which led me to a thought on the multiple things that people mean when they use the word ‘primary’ for a partner. Here are three that I’ve encountered (note that they are not mutually exclusive, and a lot of people use ‘primary’ to mean more than one of them at the same time):

  • Some people use ‘primary’ to mean what I use ‘significant-other relationship’ for. So, a centrally important intimate relationship wherein all the partners have such feelings and have agreed that they have such a relationship status.
  • Some people, for instance here, use ‘primary’ to mean ‘building a life together’ and such. I would probably use ‘life partners’ for this.
  • Some people use ‘primary’ to mean people with whom you set rules about each other’s other relationships. I don’t have another word for this, but I think it would be good to have one, because it’s a very particular thing that it’s important to be able to talk about. Until I get a better word, I’m going to be using the term ‘bounds-primary’.

Personally, I don’t use the word primary much myself. If someone asked me if I had a primary/ies, I would say yes, meaning my significant others. I think being life partners with someone, for me, would necessarily also mean being significant others with them. And I don’t have a third-type primary/bounds-primary at all, and don’t really forsee having one, because I have a different relationship philosophy from the one that concept is part of.

Mono, Poly, Etc: a Spectrum

{reposted from my kink blog here}

So, I’m currently visiting my best friend, and we were talking about relationships, and this ended up giving me the thought that ‘monongamy’ is another word that actually has multiple meanings. So I ended up thinking of this spectrum. It’s probably missing things, and has other such problems, but it helped me think through this particular thing, and having it out there might also help me think of the other things.

[Note that it is also in no way a value judgment. Different things work for different people, and as long as there is open communication, consent, etc, whatever works for whoever is totally fine.]

  • Absolute monogamy: a person has one significant-other relationship in their entire life. They only have sex and similar intimacy with this person, they and this person build their life together, etc. They and this person dedicate their lives to each other, and that’s it. (Some religious fundamentalists will advocate this one.)
  • Serial monogamy: a person has only one significant-other relationship at a time. While in such a relationship, they only have sex and similar intimacy with this person, they and this person build their life together. However, such a relationship can end, and if it does, the resulting single people may form another such relationship with someone else.
    (Note: this option actually spans a whole part of the spectrum, relating to what an ‘OK ending’ is. So, the most restrictive is ‘if one of the people dies’, and from there it basically goes through the same spectrum as divorce laws, from ‘if one person does something accepted as sufficiently terrible’ to ‘if the people/one of the people just want it to end, for any reason whatsoever’.)
  • Relationships are monogamous: If a person has a significant-other relationship, they only have one at a time, and while in such a relationship, they only have sex and similar intimacy with this person, they and this person build their life together. However, if a person is not in a significant-other relationship, they can have non-significant-other relationships with multiple people, and have sex and similar intimacy with these multiple people. (This is where the ‘we are getting serious, let’s be exclusive’ trope comes from).
  • Open relationships: A person has one significant-other relationship at a time, and they and this person build their life together. However, they can also have other non-significant-other relationships at the same time, and have sex and similar intimacy in all of these relationships.
  • Polyamory: A person can have multiple separate significant-other relationships at the same time.

Additionally, there’s a perpendicular axis for polyfidelitous relationships – moving along that axis, the word ‘monogamy’ in each point is replaced by ‘polyfidelity’, and a significant-other relationship functions the same way as noted in whichever point it fits under, but includes multiple people.

The return of the blogger?

So, as is fairly obvious from the dates, I haven’t written here in a while. I have, however, written – over the past year, I’ve been fairly regularly posting on another blog of mine, my kink blog, here.

However, lately some of that writing has started being the kind of writing I’d like to put somewhere where it could be better accessible to people who aren’t particularly interested in all my nuanced thoughts and categorizations of narrative power dynamics and kinks I have.

So I thought, hey, I have this blog I haven’t updated in forever, maybe that would be a good place!

So, here I am. I’m about to repost some of the aforementioned things from my kink blog to here, and then hopefully put up my post for March Carnival of Aces. And then – well, and then we’ll see where this goes.

(I hope it’s interesting places).