"he's my zucchini."
October 16, 2015 8:06 PM   Subscribe

"To help shed some more light on this subject matter, here are 12 terms related to sexual and romantic identities that are beginning to receive more attention in the media but that are still regularly absent or erased from conversations currently taking place in popular culture." Noah Michelson sheds light on sexual and romantic identities in a beginner's primer at Huffington Post.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (108 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's not so much that Millennials think they're the first generation to invent sex; it's that they consider themselves the first generation to have come up with words for it.

Eh, they're probably right.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:23 PM on October 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


As a millenial I do not think any of these are remotely new in practice but I'm super chuffed to have the word options to talk to people with.
posted by solarion at 8:34 PM on October 16, 2015


As long as the terms are meaningful to the people using them, I'm all for it. This list did not strike me as being of extraordinarily wide relevance, but I've been seeing a few of them more often in the last year so it is probably timely.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:35 PM on October 16, 2015




Kids today and their genders. Why, in my day, we all wore grey shapeless bags from head to toe, and we liked it.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:40 PM on October 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


I'm not sure if I should be sad that I'm too old to even understand the need for this type of multileveled nuance, or proud that I recognized this as satire, or dismayed that I can't tell the difference.

Seriously, given the diversity of individual sexual identity/preferences/tendencies/attractions/etc, the dictionary of terms will probably, eventually, be endless, as it should be. I would suggest some system of symbols, tattooed on our foreheads to allow us to identify kindred, or at least partially compatible, spirits, but the constant fluidity of sexuality would probably require the tattoos be washable and replaceable.
posted by HuronBob at 8:40 PM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wonder why the obsessive need to categorize sexual identities. (Oh, right. Foucault.)

I also wonder if the minute categorization of racial identities (which I know already occurs somewhat, but not to this level) would be similarly applauded as liberatory?
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:43 PM on October 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


When I got to zucchini I had to question whether or not those whole article was a parody. With due respect to the asexual people out there I'm not sure this article isn't parody. If it is it's not good satire and if it's not satire it's not good straight (sic) writing.

I mean, I think it's a worthwhile topic, but this article isn't great.

Maybe I'm just totally thrown off by zucchini.
posted by GuyZero at 8:49 PM on October 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


You know what sucks? Being different and having no words to describe it. People are doing their best to give their experience language, so no, not a parody or satire. Also, don't read the comments.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:58 PM on October 16, 2015 [42 favorites]


But zucchini? What am I not getting here?
posted by GuyZero at 9:00 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would be very appreciative to hear from anybody who genuinely thinks "greysexual" needs to be a thing.
posted by Reyturner at 9:02 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


That poor woman who can only fall in love with a bus.
posted by chococat at 9:02 PM on October 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


The stock photos on this. I just. The photos.
posted by babelfish at 9:03 PM on October 16, 2015 [50 favorites]


Reyturner, I met an individual who was greysexual. Between her endometreosis and her depression about her life (lack of vitamin D didn't help) she had this great indifference about all things sex. She had a sexuality - hence not asexual - she was just indifferent to the topic as a whole.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 9:07 PM on October 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I would be very appreciative to hear from anybody who genuinely thinks "greysexual" needs to be a thing.

I think any kind of language people find useful to describe their individual experience of sexual identity/non-identity/whatever needs to be a thing. This is not about categories or labels (and the more of these proliferate, the more it becomes about defying categories and labels). It's about being able to understand and articulate who you are and how you experience the world at any given time and have that heard and acknowledged and, one hopes, accepted.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:15 PM on October 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


> I also wonder if the minute categorization of racial identities (which I know already occurs somewhat, but not to this level) would be similarly applauded as liberatory?

Like a lot of things, it's going to depend: Who is doing the categorizing, and who is being categorized? Are people trying to describe their own lives and the world(s) they live in? Is that somehow anti-liberation?
posted by rtha at 9:16 PM on October 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


The stock photos on this. I just. The photos.

The article goes from weak to wonderful once you try to figure out how the photos are related to the text. I can't be the only one who is wondering why the greysexual is wandering through a sepia-tinted world. Or if zucchinis are required to wear green.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:18 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks thebotanyofsouls

Also, this comment in one of the links convinced me to relax my stink nose:

"If you can't imagine how difficult it is to actively look for a romantic partner who also has zero desire for sexual activity, then I'm sure it seems like just another dumb label to you. Having a label isn't important to me for the sake of defining myself, having a label is important to me because someone else is also going to use that label, and I'm going to know that person is someone I can more realistically explore potential with."
posted by Reyturner at 9:19 PM on October 16, 2015 [22 favorites]


Reyturner, I identify as grey-asexual (can't bring myself to call it greysexual) and for me it's a useful term. I experience sexual attraction vanishingly rarely and when I do it's often not strong enough to even act on, more of an intellectual curiosity. Some folks in the asexual community can be absolutists about the identity, so that a person with my history, for instance, wouldn't be considered asexual, even though my lived experience is more in line with asexuality than not. Grey-asexual identifies those who fall between asexual and non-asexual and can help those of us who fall on that part of the spectrum understand ourselves.

It's not a term with an exact definition and people who identify with it often have their own interpretations, but it's functioning in an area where the language is evolving rapidly as people work to more accurately express their feelings, hence the host of identities in the article.
posted by zenzicube at 9:26 PM on October 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


I identify as Grey-Asexual (greysexual) queer. For me it means "I'm generally not going to be interested in genitals, but can be" (and I enjoy a lot of non-genital related activities).

My partner was very happy to find out that people like me exist. I was happy to find out that people who can appreciate people like me exist. Terms can be helpful. (or what the commenter Reyturner quoted said)
posted by HermitDog at 9:26 PM on October 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


You want to connect with people, emotionally, significantly, lovingly and you don't want to have sex with most of them. Or, if you do want to have sex, it happens in the process of intimate friendship. Isn't that what healthy relating is? This is even within the realm of those who prefer non binary or other gendered partners. I guess getting these preferences clear helps in the realm of orientation and consent. You could just bust out the xrays and diagrams, or double date with your attorney.
posted by Oyéah at 9:28 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I loved the idea of zucchini. And language being the lovely, fluid thing that it is- this will give some guidance for those who need to hang a label on shit to get it. If it's lube in the sociosexual conversation we are having- well then have at it. Once there is a word for things, people are remarkably more at ease in discussing it.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 9:39 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I regret my jokey, flippant comment above.
I skeptically saw the article as a "how to talk to kids these days" kind of deal; my skepticism increased by the seemingly odd choice of stock images to illustrate each term. Satire or not, it's a discussion that means a lot to a lot of people, so I'm an idiot; sorry.
As progressive as I think I am, I'm constantly reminded by my kids that I need to shut the fuck up and learn.
(they wouldn't say it like that though...although I'd be cool with it in the right scenario.)
posted by chococat at 9:41 PM on October 16, 2015 [32 favorites]


Yeah, this article may be a little tongue-in-cheek, but it's not parody. I just gave an introductory workshop about non-binary identities last weekend, and even though we were talking about gender and not sexual identity, a whole lot of these terms came up.

For me, learning the term demisexual was a revelation. Dating is frustrating when you like people and have a sex drive, but don't want to have sex with people you date until/unless you have built a solid friendship. Now that I know demisexuality is a thing, I can approach dating in a way that works for me instead of just assuming I'm broken.
posted by zebra at 9:47 PM on October 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


The variety of options on the asexual/aromantic spectrum feel connected to the point made in that essay about "sex blah-tivism." Yes, various levels of interest and active pursuit of sex all fall under "healthy relating," but as a culture we have so many weird skewed perspectives and prejudices about sex and relationships that basically everyone winds up feeling abnormal at some time or another. If terminology and identity formation help you navigate that, go to it. I struggle with it personally, because I react very strongly against most attempts to form or join group identities, but I can see why it appeals to other people.

I suspect "zucchini" originated as an inside joke before being generally adopted in certain communities, and should have been contextualized. Just a guess though.

seriously though the photos
posted by babelfish at 9:50 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am totally clueless about most of these terms too, and "zucchini" sounds funny without any context, but I would like to politely request that people back off from jokes and mockery a bit in this one thread. I want to be able to hear from people who have these identities, and they aren't likely to come forward if we make this a space where they have to be defensive. So, something to please keep in mind. (Thanks, chococat.)
posted by thetortoise at 9:50 PM on October 16, 2015 [31 favorites]


I suspect "zucchini" originated as an inside joke before being generally adopted in certain communities, and should have been contextualized. Just a guess though.

Yes, it did. Context.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:59 PM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I sort of struggle with these--on one hand, it seems ridiculous to classify everything like this, but on the other hand, learning that this sort of thing exists and isn't that weird has been really valuable to me.

I mean, I've had a lot of sex. But I've only recently, in the last few years, realised that we don't owe people sex just because we're in a relationship with them. And it's only in the last maybe year that I've realised that when someone asks if you wanna go bang, it's not rude to say no. I'd always just kinda figured, you know, I don't actively dislike this person and it seems that it would make them happy, so ok, I guess. Sex is just another thing that people do, and that I've always felt was a weirdly value-weighted thing. I'd often be happier just snuggling, and don't necessarily see the difference in terms of physical satisfaction between sex and a back rub or whatever. I've never seen someone and thought oh, man, I wanna have sex with them--until this year, I literally thought that people said that and it was basically a friendly shorthand for hey, that person is put together in an aesthetically appealing way and I bet that we all basically agree on that. Spoiler alert: it is not.

And I'm not right now, but if I were after a relationship again, some of these words would probably be useful flags to find people who aren't going to be weirded out or hurt by the fact that I'm not necessarily super interested in jumping their bones every night.

Also, queerplatonic is a great and super useful word for me right now, to explain my living situation and some friendships, because no one ever believes that we're not romantically involved, and I never understand why other people seem to have such weirdly shallow friendships a lot of the time.

I also think that some of this is useful at least in part because these are things that are used against people--my ex used to complain that I was broken about sex, or that I was frigid, or that I just didn't ~understand~. And that's, you know, the kind of thing that fucks you up, being told over and over that you're wrong about how you do something that seems to be a basic biological function. Having words for it, and having people say that this is a thing that happens to at least some people and it's not that weird, it's--you know. It's kinda nice. Thanks for posting this.
posted by MeghanC at 10:13 PM on October 16, 2015 [26 favorites]


I suspect "zucchini" originated as an inside joke before being generally adopted in certain communities, and should have been contextualized. Just a guess though.

Yes, it did. Context.


It's interesting that the relationship ze describes in that blog post might have fallen somewhere under the categories of romantic friendship or Boston marriage a century ago. To me, this is evidence that young people today are not necessarily any fonder of labels than people at any point in the past or in other cultures, but that the way we label (or don't label) things and whether we think of those things as personal identities changes with time.
posted by thetortoise at 10:15 PM on October 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


One of the most harmful posts that I've ever read on AskMeFi, which seriously made me question whether to join or participate in the community was the comments that were heavily favorited in this "Am I demisexual?" post. All that invalidation being favorited, geez.

I understand that the demographics of AskMeFi skews towards 30 years old and older, but hearing comments like "aw shucks, I don't get why labels exist, what are those Millenials doing" is pretty much exactly "aww shucks those kids, what are they up to these days? crazy kids."

Marginalized cultures already get so appropriated on a daily basis and forgotten because they are taken by dominant culture. I am excited to see this be published in a mainstream article, although I would have appreciated if it was linked to the original tumblrs and blogs and forums from where the context for these terms came from.

Queer culture, like any subculture, allows for creating labels and identities and vocabulary in order to exchange topics, ideas, and explanations with eachother, so it is less laborous to explain. I personally think that English could benefit from many more very specific idioms and vocabulary, as I've talked with my parents and they have complained about how Chinese has many more idioms and vocabulary, for which there is no direct translation into English for. This is due to China (and pre-China, when there wasn't even a unified China) being so old and having so much history. I say, allow culture to grow and thrive, and I think we will all be better for it.
posted by yueliang at 10:19 PM on October 16, 2015 [24 favorites]


Also, zucchini is cool, don't knock it. I've had many friends who struggled to explain their queerplatonic relationships to their parents/loved ones/friends, who kept on assuming that they were fucking/going to marry soon/were in denial about their relationships. Being able to explain it to them with a new concept may have gotten them raised eyebrows, but it also allowed for better respect and relationships overall.
posted by yueliang at 10:20 PM on October 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Also, I identify as demisexual. It has helped me come to terms with understanding explicitly how I did not understand sexual consent in my previous relationships, because that is based on someone understanding that they even have sexual desire or wanting to commit an act that is sexual. I did not have that frame of reference, and it confused me deeply about what relationships were supposed to be, when compared to standard heteronormativity, romance normativity, and sexual normativity. Many years of therapy have been saved because of the work of queer online communities. Therapy may have not even helped me anyway in that case, due to a lack of recognition of the context of which I understood relationships and sex.

Also, demisexuality has only really existed as a term on the internet since 2009 anyway, and that is due to the work of others figuring out their experiences and sharing it online, like I am doing right now.

I implore y'all, do not invalidate this.
posted by yueliang at 10:27 PM on October 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


I also think that some of this is useful at least in part because these are things that are used against people--my ex used to complain that I was broken about sex, or that I was frigid, or that I just didn't ~understand~. And that's, you know, the kind of thing that fucks you up, being told over and over that you're wrong about how you do something that seems to be a basic biological function. Having words for it, and having people say that this is a thing that happens to at least some people and it's not that weird, it's--you know. It's kinda nice.

The importance of this point really cannot be overstated. I mean, if you consistently find yourself and your experience of life falling under one of the socially approved conventional labels for sexual identity, bully for you, but you should be aware that for some of us who don't fit under those "typical" umbrellas, one key need for a big barrel full of descriptors such as these is that in their absence (and even in their presence), the mainstream default term applied to us is "broken abnormal weirdo." I've actually sort of claimed and embraced the term weirdo for myself because I am weird in such a variety of ways other than this one, too, but if all the splendid multifarious ways of identifying and thinking about sexuality, orientation, relationships, interactions, gender, etc. had existed 30 or 40 years ago, it would have been so beneficial to me.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:49 PM on October 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


Huh, "lithromantic" sounds dead on like a friend of mine who is always pining after one super unavailable (as in, usually drastically out of her age range and opposite sexual preference and are taken) person after another, but I honestly don't think she'd want them to ever reciprocate. I'm not sure if she quite knows that consciously, but it seems to be the case unconsciously as far as I can tell. Which, hey, if that works for you and nobody else is getting hurt, yay.

However, this list doesn't have any special snowflake terminology for my special snowflakeness. Which is to say, you'd think I'm asexual because I'm not attracted to like 99% of people out there (it's either "eh" or "oh god no" or the very occasional "hm, he's pretty, but obviously not at all interested in me like that so what's the point"), but when the occasional 1% used to wander by, my heart went BOOM and insta-attraction crazy pantsness (which is to say, NOT demisexual) occurred, and either I'm attracted from minute one or never at all, so "getting to know you" makes no difference on that score. It's not that I don't have a sex drive, it's just that almost all of the population is as sexay to me as Costanza in his socks and undies, so where's it gonna go?

Anyway, I need terminology for that. Beyond "super goddamned picky" and "bitch who won't give me a chance," that is. Maybe "unicorn chaser?" Or maybe I should just give in and say "asexual" because without the unicorn, ain't nothing happening, so close enough?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:00 PM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I get mad at straight people who use "queerplatonic." "Queer" is not for straight people to reclaim.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 11:08 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Zucchini aside, I find the etymologies of some of these words to be suspect. It's unclear what rock has to do with lithromantics, what's halfsies about demisexuals/demiromantics. In the case of the latter, I take it there's some paradigm where sexual attraction and romantic attraction are two sides of a single, common-in-everyone-but-me coin. Well, experience has taught me that's not that common, and I trust it will teach the new generation as well.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:11 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didn't know there was a term for it, so knowing the word queerplatonic is useful.
My fiancee (ee!) and I have been living with a roommate for ten years now. I introduce her as my sister, and tell people I've adopted her. That's a bit quicker than 'queerplatonic relationship, this is my zucchini.' I guess if people know the terminology, I'll use that instead.
I don't like zucchini, even with context. I think I want to stick with sister. No one's accused me of being in denial or anything yet, so that's something.
posted by stoneegg21 at 11:15 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I find the etymologies of some of these words to be suspect.

"Homosexuality" is famously a mix of Latin and Greek, but no one seems to object these days.
"Homosexual" is a barbarously hybrid word, and I claim no responsibility for it. It is, however, convenient, and now widely used. "Homogenic" has been suggested as a substitute.
-- Havelock Ellis, 1897
posted by thetortoise at 11:22 PM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sunburnt, for "lith-" I *think* the broad reference is that the person does not feel stimulated, gratified, etc. by reciprocity, so in terms of gaining enjoyment by the return of their affection or attention, they are like stone.

/ very brief googling! I'm definitely not versed in most of these terms, but am interested in learning about them
posted by taz at 11:39 PM on October 16, 2015


Hmm, interesting post. I can understand the desire to articulate these kinds of dynamics; I guess what I find confusing is the wish to append them to a categorical and (sounds like?) fixed identity. I've experienced very close platonic friendships, and unrequited attraction, and the desire to be friends first, at different times in my life, as well as easier friendships and at least one sort of footloose period. More change than constancy in all this, for me.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:41 PM on October 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


About "lithromantic," it appears to be coined from "stone butch" (a type of lesbian or transgender identity). It may be falling out of fashion because of discomfort with appropriation, though, since stone butch is well-known to many lesbians and quite a lot older. It seems like the two terms describe something quite different. Some people have suggested "akoiromantic" instead. (just googling like taz here)
posted by thetortoise at 11:46 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I, too, feel a bit dismayed at the dismissive comments upthread (and glad about the pushback further down).
I've never had the need to put a label on what I am (feel, do, don't do) for my own sake, at all. I'm just me. The reason I ended up calling myself asexual was to ward off the judgment / pity / concern / snark (delete as appropriate) of the countless people who just could not deal with the fact I did not conform to the norm, that I did not fit into the neat little drawers they had formed in their minds about how people are expected to behave (they have sex! "Everyone has sex! What are you, frigid?" One dude tried to convince me sex was a basic biological need like eating and breathing. REALLY? Do you see me dying, moron!?).
So having a label was a relief. To now be denied that label by mainstream-sexuals (?) again is - meh. If you lot were more accepting and inclusive, we wouldn't need to define ourselves so precisely.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:20 AM on October 17, 2015 [16 favorites]


Self-defense is a pretty clear rationale, I can see that.

Not dissimilar to another discussion here a while ago about people wanting to reclaim "spinster" (which I suppose could apply to me). I guess a label or claimed identity could end a few of the more tiresome conversations I've had with certain acquaintances about my life more efficiently. I think I'd personally find it more limiting than freeing overall.

But then I don't experience (or don't notice) the kind of pressure people identifying with some of those categories probably feel. Using "demi-sexual" as a tool for asserting consent (especially for those unavoidably steeped in Tinder etc. culture) is interesting. (Is it a gendered identity, are more women than men identifying with that one? Is it easier for young women to say, "I'm demi-sexual" than to say "no"?)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:44 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


(And if it is, is it better for women to say one thing or the other? Other than getting out of a sticky situation, that is obviously worthwhile anytime, use whatever hammer you've got.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:51 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's more information on demisexual here. For example, Isn’t it normal to only want sex after getting to know someone? :
There’s a difference between feeling sexually attracted to someone and wanting to have sex with them. Sexual attraction isn’t something you can control—either you have sexual feelings for someone or not. You can’t force it to happen and you can’t force it to go away, so you don’t have a choice in the matter. Sexual behavior, on the other hand, is something you can choose to participate in, or not.

Most people on the non-asexual side of the spectrum feel sexual attraction regardless of whether or not they have a close emotional bond with someone. They may have sexual feelings for attractive people on the street, classmates or coworkers they’ve barely spoken to, or celebrities. However, they may choose to wait to have sex for a variety of reasons: it might not be feasible or appropriate, they want to make sure the person is respectful and kind, it’s against their religious beliefs, they only want to have sex in a romantic relationship, etc. The difference is that demisexuals don’t start out with these sexual feelings at all.
I don't necessarily see this term and others as "defensive" but as supplying terms that make it easier to discuss certain (personal) dynamics, in a way that's similar to much of the terminology that makes some aspects of feminism, say, easier to navigate: You don't need to preface everything with extended explanations of X basic concept. The people who are not really interested in having that conversation anyway will probably not be familiar with many of the terms and won't be terribly interested in learning them, but if you do want to explore the subject with others, it's great to be able to get beyond the ground floor without writing a few thousand words to express some of the fundamentals, and nice to be able to find your cohort.

And this isn't just about identity issues, of course. Every interest area has specialist terminology that is useful for people who want to discuss the relevant topics, and which allows the growth of ideas to progress more smoothly.
posted by taz at 1:06 AM on October 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sorry, taz. I was responding to the comment immediately above mine, and some others expressed in this thread, and I was thinking of the AskMetafilter question that yueliang took exception to above, and about some possible tensions in those ideas and conversations. It is a new taxonomy, after all, that describes experiences probably many of us have had, for longer or shorter periods, before it emerged. Yes, I will go read more about it, thank you.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:26 AM on October 17, 2015


I see what you are saying, cotton dress sock. Also, because I only now realized that it probably wasn't clear, I definitely wasn't talking about you when I mentioned people who aren't interested in the discussion! I was thinking more of the way many conversations about feminism or transgender topics go when some people need to express their annoyance with terminology, while most are probably okay with the rapid proliferation of new terms in other areas (such as technology, for an easy one).
posted by taz at 2:17 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for clarifying, taz, I appreciate it. (I agree, identity in general is a sticky subject, and one that I think many tend to feel they can approach on the authority of their direct and necessarily historical experience. Frustrating for specialists, I'm sure!)
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:31 AM on October 17, 2015


Wow, how do you reconcile skoliosexuality with the concept of "my sexuality is not your fetish"? I don't think you do.
posted by darksasami at 2:32 AM on October 17, 2015


darksasami, I'm not sure I follow? Non-binary is a gender identity, not a sexual orientation, so being skoliosexual doesn't sound too different from being attracted to only men or only women.
posted by thetortoise at 2:46 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Darksasami, I've been battling that question recently.

People are often attracted to male features, or female features. I find attraction to features that do not delineate clearly into binaries, and people who present themselves as the same. If being attracted to features which are often read as male (say, a strong jawline) is not a fetish, why is being attracted to features which read as non-binary a fetish?

But I am not emotionally convinced by my own reasoning, given that non-binary people I've talked to have related the experience of feeling fetishised in previous relationships, and not being non-binary myself (I like a queering presentation sometimes but I've never felt uncomfortable being labeled male) I can't speak for it.
posted by solarion at 3:02 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Their definition for 'skoliosexual' rubs me rather the wrong way. "Sexual attraction to non-binary identified individuals" is all well and good, but then they throw "or those who do not identify as cisgender" in there. So like, apparently, us binary-identified trans people, we aren't really women or men, we're like, something else, which is why we need a special term for being attracted to trans people.

There's a word for this sort of attitude. It's 'transphobia'.
posted by Dysk at 3:45 AM on October 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


People are often attracted to male features, or female features. I find attraction to features that do not delineate clearly into binaries, and people who present themselves as the same. If being attracted to features which are often read as male (say, a strong jawline) is not a fetish, why is being attracted to features which read as non-binary a fetish?

I've been thinking I am nonbinary. It's an internal experience, and I'm not sure it's something a stranger can identify from outside (I present as pretty obviously genderqueer, but there are nonbinary people who don't). I don't think it is something that has much to do with the physical features I was born with. My sense of being nonbinary is located in my brain, if anywhere.

So what I would say is that we're actually talking about two different things here. We might read features as typically masculine or feminine, but a woman doesn't become something other than a woman because she has a strong jaw, and a man doesn't become something other than a man because he has wide hips. You might be attracted to features that appear androgynous or that have a mix of "masculine" and "feminine" characteristics? That doesn't sound like a fetish, only a preference.

Where I think this crosses into fetishizing territory is if you confuse your partner's physical features for their gender identity, or consider those superficial features more important than who they consider themselves to be. This is an especially painful experience for trans people if those features are ones that cause dysphoria (not speaking from experience here, only reading and friends' accounts). I imagine that's the kind of thing you're afraid of here. It is something to watch out for.

Their definition for 'skoliosexual' rubs me rather the wrong way. "Sexual attraction to non-binary identified individuals" is all well and good, but then they throw "or those who do not identify as cisgender" in there. So like, apparently, us binary-identified trans people, we aren't really women or men, we're like, something else, which is why we need a special term for being attracted to trans people.

There's a word for this sort of attitude. It's 'transphobia'.


I agree. Looking it up, it's not the definition I see on most sites, which is just the nonbinary part.

Geez, sorry for writing a book, everybody. I'm in this thread to listen but can't seem to shut myself up!
posted by thetortoise at 3:55 AM on October 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Long story short: article might be about something good and useful and interesting, but article is so poorly fucking written that it is instead just outright offensive or laughable. Seriously, I think the inclination to consider this a joke or satire rather than take it seriously springs from this particular article and how it is written more than it does from the concepts and subject. The concepts deserve better treatment.
posted by Dysk at 4:04 AM on October 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


That poor woman who can only fall in love with a bus.


I believe that's "Omnisexual".
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:07 AM on October 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: It's lube in the sociosexual conversation we are having
posted by Gotanda at 4:15 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I identify as genderqueer, and have been using they as a pronoun for a couple of years now, but have a beard and am a big lumbering dude looking person--i don't think a skoliophlliac would find me attractive or read me as non binary at all.
posted by PinkMoose at 4:19 AM on October 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Aromantic

So, that's what I am. Huh.

I should like to add 'litromantic' to the list – while I have no interest in personal romance, I have discovered I enjoy shipping entirely too much.
posted by bouvin at 4:22 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


[A few comments deleted here. Let's try to avoid making this a thread full of one-liners and jokes, please. Although I don't think anyone intends it this way, it does discourage people who want to discuss seriously. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:15 AM on October 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


In the 2011 documentary (A)sexual (available on pivot.tv if you have an affiliated cable subscription login and also on Netflix, previously) AVEN web site founder David Jay observes that asexual people beginning to connect with each other in online communities around the turn of the century was the result of many people independently formulating the novel term "asexual" and consequently having something to put into a search engine.
posted by XMLicious at 5:32 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


These are interesting terms, apart from zucchini, which in England would be courgette, and just sounds daft either way.

Interestingly, the Greeks had four types of love, and no-one complains about that, and this seems to me to be moving us forward on the gender/sexuality/romantic identity front, helping people realise they are not the only person who feels a certain way, having words to describe themselves and allowing people to know that it is okay to feel/be that way. But the photos are dire, absolutely awful, what were they thinking?

I agree with the comment above that this needs better presentation than the HuffPo have managed here.

Love taz's comment about "get beyond the ground floor" - I hope it catches on, as it seems very apt here (and in trans* threads on Mefi as they were before the trans* 101 links were utilised.)

Glad this thread got away from the "you kids get off my lawn" type of joking (and then, on preview, returned to. Come on Mefites, you are better than this.)
posted by marienbad at 5:38 AM on October 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wish the article had incorporated, or at least hinted at, the caution given about the word skoliosexual included in the definition it references:
It should be noted that some non-binary and genderqueer individuals may object to being viewed in this manner (similar to differing trans* views on “chasers” or those who are perceived as such), while others may be fine with a genderqueer or non-binary-specific sexuality. At any rate, I would recommend using caution around this term, particularly as it is a recently created term with little history and there may be other terms that emerge as well.
posted by zebra at 5:59 AM on October 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, this was an interesting discussion to wake up to.

I think Dysk's comment about the framing of this article is incredibly accurate. I frequently see these terms lists going around Tumblr--where I'd expect this list to have originated in some form or another--and I really dislike them. In my experience, they tend to have a) slightly incorrect definitions of terms (as with "skoliosexual," which I have never personally seen used to refer to anything but "being attracted to people who identify as nonbinary"), and b) to present those terms divorced from all context and usage.

That second piece is actually more or a problem than the first, because these are terms that most people won't have seen before and, in my experience, most people have a kneejerk negative reaction to them--hell, you can see that all over this thread. Divorcing them from the conversations in which they usually come up, which tend to make it obvious why they're needed--they're usually defined in those conversations, even, in the same way people introduce unfamiliar jargon into any conversation!--increases the likelihood that people will grab those lists up as things to mock or sneer at. Some of that could probably be helped if the people who published these lists would fucking link to some of those conversations or to coinage pieces or to a nuanced discussion using any of these terms, but that seems to be too difficult to bother with. So what people get is a list of dubiously sourced unfamiliar words with weird definitions, and of course that's not necessarily helpful to many people.

I more-or-less popularized zucchini after that conversation on Kaz' blog, and in the circles I follow most people very specifically say they don't use the word outside of particular ace communities because it's non-intuitive and difficult to get across. It is effectively, at this point, an in-joke--which is how it started out, as betweenthebars helpfully pointed out. I don't use it that much anymore; while the concept is still incredibly useful, the word itself turned out to be more of a barrier to discussion than anything. These days I tend to go with "partners" and verbally explain that I don't fucking get the difference between friendship and romance and that I can just as easily conceptualize my relationship as a poly triad as I can three extremely committed friends when the topic comes up. Which in and of itself gets a lot of weird stares and looks and invalidation, to be frank--I don't need the added target of a funny-looking word to get people making fun of me and my people even more.
posted by sciatrix at 6:44 AM on October 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


"I guess what I find confusing is the wish to append them to a categorical and (sounds like?) fixed identity."

Yeah, I appreciate the recognition of the breadth of identities, but I'm uncomfortable attaching such granular, specific labels to something so fluid. I think, being slightly older, I've seen people drift away from various identities, sometimes very awkwardly because of the vigor with which they once proclaimed them. For me the tension is between, "Let us very specifically label our sexual and romantic preferences and make sure everyone fits in a category" and "This is a fluid and large thing, its probably better if we just accept people as they are and not demand the justification of a label." The proliferation of labels makes me uncomfortable for that reason: it sometimes feels like we're just trying to make more pigeonholes instead of recognizing true diversity of humanness that we should just accept in all its messy fluidity.

That said, labels are OBVIOUSLY very helpful for people looking for support from others with similar experiences, and for online dating, and neither of those is a small benefit. So I'll just sit here simultaneously being uncomfortable with the urge to label and categorize, and also recognizing its utility, and be confident that, like everyone before, Millennials will mostly work it out and that they've gotta make their own mistakes and victories.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:47 AM on October 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


> It's interesting that the relationship ze describes in that blog post might have fallen somewhere under the categories of romantic friendship or Boston marriage a century ago. To me, this is evidence that young people today are not necessarily any fonder of labels than people at any point in the past or in other cultures, but that the way we label (or don't label) things and whether we think of those things as personal identities changes with time.

Yeah! And actually, the people having these conversations--at least, having them a few years ago--are fully aware of Boston marriages and romantic friendships, and you'll frequently see them referenced in those discussions. I mentioned that I partially popularized the word, because I was an ace blogger with a much wider audience at the time than Kaz had and I wrote a long post discussing why I was (at the time) using it, and that post references Boston marriages. So does this post, which also references those concepts. I think they're not terms that get picked up and used wholesale because they have a lot of baggage to them that ace communities don't want to appropriate, particularly Boston marriages, but they're definitely something that people having those conversations are generally aware of.
posted by sciatrix at 6:50 AM on October 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think I'm having trouble putting some of these in context. Asexual is clear enough, certainly, and I understand "graysexual" as being a response to absolutism (like "heteroflexible" or "flexitarian"), but some, like demisexual, make me raise an eyebrow. Not because I think they don't describe a legitimate and real experience, but I'm not sure what they signify beyond "this is a word for a thing."

Let me explain by example. My level of sexual interest varies based on my level of personal stress. When I'm worried about money or outside pressures are high, my libido is lower. So let's say I start calling myself a "chronosexual." (Which is a terrible name for it, but some of the items listed are also terrible names.)

First off, it's pretty clear that "chronosexual" is a legitimate experience. I'm not just making up my varying levels of libido to be cool or whatever. But it's also a very common experience. I would even guess that it's by far the most common experience, but I have no data to back that up.

So what do I do with the fact that I'm a "chronosexual"? It could be a useful term in a conversation with a potential sexual partner, assuming that the partner in question knows the term. If they're asexual or "fidelisexual," which is a term I just made up meaning someone with a steady libido that doesn't change based on outside or internal factors, then it could be useful to know, and having a word is easier than saying "I'm a person whose level of libido varies based on outside stresses" over and over. So yay for that.

But would it make sense for me to join discussion groups for chronosexuals, to wear a "Chronosexual and Proud" T-shirt, to lobby the local Pride organizers to let chronosexuals march in their parade? To "come out" as chronosexual?

I think that's the core of what's furrowing my brow. While "-sexual" is a perfectly cromulent suffix, it's one that has come to be associated with queer politics, and while some of these identities are associated with queerness, their inclusion with others that are orthogonal to queerness makes me wonder whether this "spectrum" won't be used as a way to diffuse the realities of oppression, like white people who claim that being one-sixteenth Cherokee makes them non-white, or people of Irish extraction who point to 19th-century anti-Irish sentiment and current Irish stereotyping as a sign that they can't be racist.

This isn't a rant, I'm not trying to stomp out new words, I'm just trying to voice concerns that may or may not be well-founded.
posted by lore at 7:01 AM on October 17, 2015 [21 favorites]


Sets of variables... Might be a tidy mind thing, but does anyone feel this calls for tabulation? There seem to be some slots in the table, not named here, which I don't think are unpopulated. Maybe it's been done?
posted by Segundus at 7:08 AM on October 17, 2015


Sets of variables... Might be a tidy mind thing, but does anyone feel this calls for tabulation? There seem to be some slots in the table, not named here, which I don't think are unpopulated. Maybe it's been done?

Just in case you were curious, this is exactly why the ace community is full of increasingly obscure names for parsed variables and axes of sexuality. It's precisely the thought process, and I'm kind of delighted and amused it came up here of all places!
posted by sciatrix at 7:15 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


So what do I do with the fact that I'm a "chronosexual"?

You could use it as a way to find similar people and discuss the matter with them, or even dissimilar people from you who just happen to be talking about it. It could serve this purpose even if for the person who originally coins a term it's merely an affectation or the product of an overly-systematizing thought process.
posted by XMLicious at 7:26 AM on October 17, 2015


(Though I see what you're saying about diffusing the realities of oppression)
posted by XMLicious at 7:28 AM on October 17, 2015


I think that's the core of what's furrowing my brow. While "-sexual" is a perfectly cromulent suffix, it's one that has come to be associated with queer politics, and while some of these identities are associated with queerness, their inclusion with others that are orthogonal to queerness makes me wonder whether this "spectrum" won't be used as a way to diffuse the realities of oppression, like white people who claim that being one-sixteenth Cherokee makes them non-white, or people of Irish extraction who point to 19th-century anti-Irish sentiment and current Irish stereotyping as a sign that they can't be racist.

This is definitely one side of the tensions I was thinking of with "demi-sexual", which at least on the surface reads as an identity that seems largely consonant with heteronormativity.

The other thought I had about that category in particular was that if that queer identity is being used (by cis women), as a way of framing consent and resistance to sex with men (and I have no idea whether this is the case; it's the notion that struck me after reading one comment above and that Ask, and also thinking about young women's experiences as reflected in this piece - I will indeed do more reading around it), this might obscure a different (perhaps parallel?) conversation that might be had about the need for women's right and freedom to say "no" to what they might experience as objectifying or pressured sex, without qualification, and to assert a right to emotional intimacy, without qualification.

But again, if the identity is of practical use to women in that sort of context, they should have at it. And it's not as though young women are afraid of speaking power to rape culture in other settings (they're doing a fabulous job of it). (And really it's probably not for me to say one way or the other.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:40 AM on October 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I fit into the demisexual category. Having a word to describe why I've only ever actually enjoyed being touched by one person ever in my entire life (the one I married, conveniently) is kind of nice. But it's not an identity to me. It's just one facet of my personality. On Tumblr, I see that there's a demisexual flag. We don't need a flag. Really. There is also no need for us to "come out" to our parents (which is a thing that I've seen, again, on Tumblr).
posted by LindsayIrene at 8:06 AM on October 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


To be fair, it's functionally impossible to create descriptors for human experiences without them being adopted as identities. In the realm of role-playing game design and theory -- to use an unrelated example -- there are those who started talking about the "simulationist," "narrativist," and "gamist" aspects of RPGs, with a caveat that games and players typically incorporate all three aspects. And of course, almost immediately you had people saying "I'm a simulationist and I think this narrativist trend in games is disgusting" and "As a narrativist, I wish gamists would just go back to playing video games" and so forth. I think it's just the price of trying to describe the human experience.
posted by lore at 8:20 AM on October 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


Some people do heavy emphasis on identities, some people don't. I tend not to for myself. I think this isn't so much a Millennial/olds split as much as it is a people who live on the Internet/people who don't split--the online ace community has been around for a long, long time in Internet terms.

I can kind of-sort of explain "bisexual" without defaulting to the bad nasty stereotypes to people who don't spend a lot of time on the Internet. I can maybe explain "asexual" to them, especially if they spend more time reading things on the Internet that aren't on Facebook. At this point, I can't explain "panromantic grey-asexual" to them and I don't even know where to start--and that's an identity that uses terms that people can sort of guess at what they mean.
posted by Electric Elf at 8:38 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think what strikes me is that some of these seem to be attempts to explain yourself in the context of societal expectations rather than something inherent about yourself.

Reading some of the discussions, I keep seeing "I'm not comfortable with all these expectations of a relationship." But what's considered normal is going to shift between cultures and even between social circles. So it feels to me like trying to pin something to a moving target. So, while these may be great for helping people explore and discuss themselves in their own terms, I'd be surprised to see many of them enter the popular lexicon.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 8:44 AM on October 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm firmly in the view that more language is more fabulous.

But, a trend I see that sends me into a frothing rage at times is adoption of these terms as pseudo-scientific categories rather than delightfully ambiguous and cloudy adjectives and synonyms. On some social networks this has become something of a shibboleth, to the point where people really do say that if you use terms like gay, lesbian, or bisexual you're explicitly or tacitly endorsing nonbinary erasure.

(No, this is Erasure ;) )

I'd be much more comfortable with terms like pansexual and skoliosexual if advocates did not go out of their way to reductively define gay, lesbian, and bi gender(s) in strictly cisgender terms, (and even straight gender(s)). Especially on the bi front since the so-called "new" definition of bi as attraction to multiple genders was crafted with the participation of binary and nonbinary trans people to reflect our lived experience that the Kinsey scale and Klein grid were bullshit.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:16 AM on October 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


Self-identification is a strategy that people have to use when their experiences aren't the "unmarked" default and they want to talk about their experience. In the long term, identities that carve out their own space and become broadly accepted and represented as if they were just insignificant variations within some unmarked default don't have to *be* identities anymore.
posted by kewb at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Very good point, CBrachyrhynchos. I personally have not witnessed that in my circles, but I can definitely see that happening in others, but that may be because my circle is heavily genderfluid or don't care about pronouns.

"I think what strikes me is that some of these seem to be attempts to explain yourself in the context of societal expectations rather than something inherent about yourself."

Interesting observation, but I don't understand why it should be seperate. Our identities are always within context of societal expectations, and I feel like the queering and developing of key terms to develop relationships, can allow one to have more nuanced ways of understanding their relationship to the world and others, especially within the context of structural inequalities and certain narratives. Like really, how can I not be reactive to my context, when I sign onto Lifehacker and there are mainstream articles, targeted towards cis heterosexual relationships like "How to Meet Her Parents?"

"The other thought I had about that category in particular was that if that queer identity is being used (by cis women), as a way of framing consent and resistance to sex with men (and I have no idea whether this is the case; it's the notion that struck me after reading one comment above and that Ask, and also thinking about young women's experiences as reflected in this piece - I will indeed do more reading around it), this might obscure a different (perhaps parallel?) conversation that might be had about the need for women's right and freedom to say "no" to what they might experience as objectifying or pressured sex, without qualification, and to assert a right to emotional intimacy, without qualification. "

I really like the last part you bring up about women's rights, but I also want to note that is a potential derail, because it may be more accurate to state that toxic patriarchy and harsh delineations of gender roles/identities/constructions/relationships have a significant impact on both women's rights to relationships and the formation of vocabulary like demisexuality.

I also deeply want to caution against assuming the gender identities of any partners or of the posters in this post. I went back through the demisexual comments in this post, and I am unclear of which comment you are referring to, especially since I gave no clue to any gender markers in this thread. I also definitely do not represent the demisexual experiences, because there are many voices that we are not hearing here - I'm just sharing what I know.

I have hosted several demisexuality workshops at different queer spaces, and many cis, trans, and gender fluid queers have talked to me about their experiences. Some of them do identify as men, and have explained how they find it enormously difficult to talk about their experiences, due to toxic masculinity and feeling inadequate when performing for their partners. Sexuality =/= gender identities, and sex and gender aren't the same thing, as a casual reminder.
posted by yueliang at 10:45 AM on October 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think there's (maybe?) a difference between describing yourself in terms of an identity, and in terms of receptivity.

When you're proclaiming an identity, you're giving some information about yourself. You're saying, this is my community, or these are my desired boundaries, or I want to let you know I share histories with you. But there's just something different about declaring receptivity, since you're not defining yourself at that point, but your desired other. It's a little bit of objectification, with all the prejudices and miscategorizations that can involve. Even if they're trying to be inclusive, it's just a weird dynamic, veering towards creepy the more someone explains it, and the more starkly it appears they're trying to jam you into a box they've made. (Um, unless you're into taphephilia, I guess, in which case getting jammed into a box would be fine?)
posted by mittens at 11:30 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


One thing about demisexuality that I think gets left out of the conversation a lot is, as I said, context. This is not a term that hetero-identified women trying to "appropriate" queer experiences came up with. This is a term that popped up to describe a particular form of grey-asexuality, which basically constitutes "I'm asexual... but with rare exceptions, which I'm not necessarily able to predict or figure out. Shit. How do I figure out what to do with my life now?" The 'half' prefix is a little unfortunate, but then words aren't often semantically perfect to start with, and it's an established enough term that it's probably not going away any time soon.

Another thing that frequently gets left out of the conversation about demisexuality is that demisexuality is extremely explicitly about desire, not behavior. It is not about women being patriarchically "good." (Actually, I've had to repeatedly make the argument that neither asexuality nor demisexuality are automatically patriarchy-approved, since both of them involve women owning their own desires and taking agency for those desires.... and patriarchal demands on women center women's sexuality on whatever is most convenient to men. Which demisexuality and asexuality may or may not be.) Again, demi people are not always straight. Another thing that complicates demi orientations such that people with them sometimes don't identify with another sexual orientation is that the n of people to whom one has been sexually attracted is so small that it's difficult to make broader predictions about other people who fit into that category.
posted by sciatrix at 11:32 AM on October 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm just happy that this world is big enough to potentially have someone for everyone to love. Or not love. Or be with platonically, but affectionately. Or whatever.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:41 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh how exciting! I didn't realize that sciatrix wrote the article that helped me and many of my friends understand and use the word zucchini to help describe our relationships. Y'all, this is cool!
posted by yueliang at 11:41 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


*wanders into MeFi thread after reading the article*

*reads the first 10 posts, decides I must leave immediately, starts to walk out*

*reads the next 10 posts, squints suspiciously, grudgingly returns*

which is to say, glad we turned this one around kids
posted by nogoodverybad at 11:54 AM on October 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thanks for your responses, yueliang and sciatrix. I was thinking of MeghanC's comment, actually (and though they didn't mention their sexual preference or identity, I thought might resonate with cis hetero women), and the OP of the Ask you disliked, yueliang. It's clear so far that demisexuality isn't connected necessarily with straight cis experience (though it doesn't seem to contradict it) and doesn't exclude other kinds of experience. But I did wonder whether it might be compelling to young straight cis women, for the reasons I mentioned.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:56 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


cotton dress sock, I feel an enormous amounts of tugs at what you are discussing, so thanks for clarifying, I do get it. This Everyday Feminism article can talk about it from one person who identifies as a heteroromantic demisexual, and is romantically attracted to men. And a seperate one about asexuality and consent issues, may be of interest to you as well.

I think yes, specifically young cis straight women would benefit from it, but I think everyone would benefit from these discussions of asexuality and consent. Often times, the gaze of sexuality is due to expectations from others, rather than focused on the agency of the person involved. Combined with media representation, it is a dire place, but I think it's important to emphasize that everyone suffers from the patriarchal gaze, which also includes race, class, etc because it is all intertwined (intersectionality! and kyriarchy!). I also think that as someone who once identified as a straight cis woman, that demisexuality allowed me to understand how fluid I feel about my gender and sexuality, and how freeing it is to really not give a fuck, and to see other stories of how other people have lived and thought out their lives, that I would not have access to in mainstream media. I also think that anyone can arrive at demisexuality or other asexuality continuum terms, from at any point in their gender or sexual identities, not just young straight women.

People will always have stereotypical expectations based on how you look, present, talk, relate, and understand, and using the words 'I'm a demisexual' gives me a great deal of freedom and agency from having to feel guilt or shame over how I am constantly perceived, because to a limit, how much can I really control over it? If people want to kill me or mistreat me based on how I am or how I am perceived or look to them, well what about structural inequity and how that frames society's thinking towards marginalized people? Likewise, if people don't care enough to truly engage with me on this front, then they don't access to my inner circle of emotional intimacy, and therefore are not relationship material. Same as it goes for any of my other beliefs.

But it is extremely dehumanizing to be invalidated on any level by people who do not even bother to get to know me or listen to me or know of my existence, with rude comments and eye-rolling (like upthread). And sometimes, I just don't have enough energy to even try to discuss or educate or share my experiences, which I also don't have to share. I know that educating helps changes perceptions, but it's also tiring. Yesterday and today are good days, where I am mentally, emotionally, energetically, and physically ready to talk.
posted by yueliang at 12:56 PM on October 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm also aware that I am commenting a lot, but there are a lot of interesting comments in the thread that I am responding to:

"Boston marriages" makes me giggle, because in my English classes, they were frequently used to describe "close female friendships" of authors, aka we really don't know what happened, but oh the subtext! People may find this "Queering Histories" post really interesting. It's really part of a context that is not our own today, and was probably much more useful in that time period of the 19th century. Doesn't mean it isn't useful today for understanding the conditions of sexuality within that sociohistorical frame. However, I remember first discovering it during my searches in the asexuality community, and that helped me realize that the representation of different types of relationships can be created and formed.

-
"But would it make sense for me to join discussion groups for chronosexuals, to wear a "Chronosexual and Proud" T-shirt, to lobby the local Pride organizers to let chronosexuals march in their parade? To "come out" as chronosexual?"

"I can kind of-sort of explain "bisexual" without defaulting to the bad nasty stereotypes to people who don't spend a lot of time on the Internet. I can maybe explain "asexual" to them, especially if they spend more time reading things on the Internet that aren't on Facebook. At this point, I can't explain "panromantic grey-asexual" to them and I don't even know where to start--and that's an identity that uses terms that people can sort of guess at what they mean."

"I fit into the demisexual category. Having a word to describe why I've only ever actually enjoyed being touched by one person ever in my entire life (the one I married, conveniently) is kind of nice. But it's not an identity to me. It's just one facet of my personality. On Tumblr, I see that there's a demisexual flag. We don't need a flag. Really. There is also no need for us to "come out" to our parents (which is a thing that I've seen, again, on Tumblr)."

I feel like these comments have all summed up different thoughts I've had during my trajectory of identifying as a demisexual and as a queer, so I understand where this is coming from. But if you don't need it, that's cool, but let other people have the space to have it?

I guess a recurring pattern that I see here, which I also saw in the last demisexual thread that I linked to, was this rejection of needing to "join a group." I'm not really sure where people are getting this idea that you HAD to do anything. Plenty of queer people aren't necessarily part of social groups on the internet, don't wear flags, don't do anything. Some of them do, because it helps empower them and make them feel more secure and steady. Some of them really have emotional and physical needs to belong to some spaces, while others don't. For some, it's a matter of life or death. Feeling alienated your entire life, not understanding what's "wrong" with you, and then finally having access to words or resources or knowledge to solidify your understanding of your experiences - it's like when a drought is finally parched. It's completely up to self-determination, and these comments reminds me of a need for individualism? Isn't individualism just letting people do what they want, if it helps them? I don't really know what policing will do in this case.

This is coming from someone who now feels satiated, and doesn't currently run queer or asexual workshop groups, or go to LGBTQIA centers, or writes articles on the internet. Currently. I want to go back at some point. But for now, I am interested in participating in larger communities (like MetaFilter), where dialogues about queerness and feminism are part of any other dialogues about other interesting concepts of being alive in the 21st century, and is not looked at as weird. This is not static, and I will want to go back to these spaces at some point. A lot of aspects of my identity are not visible or discussed unless I bring it up as a topic, but that goes for everything, not just my gender or sexuality.

-

"I think that's the core of what's furrowing my brow. While "-sexual" is a perfectly cromulent suffix, it's one that has come to be associated with queer politics, and while some of these identities are associated with queerness, their inclusion with others that are orthogonal to queerness makes me wonder whether this "spectrum" won't be used as a way to diffuse the realities of oppression, like white people who claim that being one-sixteenth Cherokee makes them non-white, or people of Irish extraction who point to 19th-century anti-Irish sentiment and current Irish stereotyping as a sign that they can't be racist."

I also find lore's comments interesting, on the whole issue of "diffusion of realities." I always have felt demisexual/asexual since I was a child, but had no vocabulary or context or access to even state it. The only things I saw on Google was "butch lesbian" and "lipstick lesbian," which are extremely narrow identifiers that didn't apply to me in the least, but just because it wasn't useful for me, doesn't mean it diluted my reality, it probably helped someone else.

If anything, this whole list of vocabulary has helped bring my reality forward so I can engage with you, and so we can have these conversations, it doesn't dilute it, but add to the chromatic continuum. If you're talking about it being "cool" like white families stating that they are Cherokee is 1/16th cool, if that ever happens, I am sure there will be rebuttal articles written by someone on the internet? I am actually completely unsure by what you mean, since that seems rather bizarre and not equivalent to me! I look at this list of terms, and the more terms that come in the future as a positive thing, where people are finding more ways and tools to figure out their relationship to relationships and sexuality.
posted by yueliang at 1:06 PM on October 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I know that educating helps changes perceptions, but it's also tiring. Yesterday and today are good days, where I am mentally, emotionally, energetically, and physically ready to talk.

Emphatic +1 to this. It can be so dehumanizing. Especially when if you open your mouth, even the non-derisive, friendly, interested reactions can be kind of appalling--I've had a coworker immediately ask me about details of my sexual history when I outed myself, I've had new friends immediately ask about my porn consumption habits and my genital configuration and my rape history. I even have a story about the most adorable time I've been asked about my personal masturbation habits, because of course I've hit that question often enough to have plenty of fodder.

Which plays into how open I am about terms like this which do totally apply to me and how I respond to set pieces like this which are juuuuust wrong enough to make my life harder. I really, really wish people who were committed to increasing asexual-spectrum awareness would do it by prioritizing stories or more long-form descriptions about what ace experiences and conversations are like rather than these short little definitions and set pieces. As it is, my experience is that the people who are interested enough to track down these little bits and bobs are starved for a sense of "what it's like." That means that instead of getting to casually out myself before commenting on the bit of the conversation that made it relevant for me to state where I'm coming from, outing myself results in either an excited interrogation about my experiences and history or a defensive "don't care, stop making shit up" shut-down. Neither one is really what I want.

It was actually not a great day for me to feel like educating today, and I'm really grateful yueliang had the energy to do that in this thread. Because on my own, I couldn't and wouldn't have done it. The world's too hostile to wade through shit like this without a good reason, and there's so much hostility that it has really sensitized me to even expressions of skepticism that mean well.
posted by sciatrix at 1:14 PM on October 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


Which plays into how open I am about terms like this which do totally apply to me and how I respond to set pieces like this which are juuuuust wrong enough to make my life harder. I really, really wish people who were committed to increasing asexual-spectrum awareness would do it by prioritizing stories or more long-form descriptions about what ace experiences and conversations are like rather than these short little definitions and set pieces. As it is, my experience is that the people who are interested enough to track down these little bits and bobs are starved for a sense of "what it's like."

I actually realized that I have not actually shared my own stories in a very specific, anecdotal matter on this thread, for this reason alone. The fact that I've had to spend this much time on the MeFi thread even discussing or fighting people's scorn and snark about "these newfangled, silly terms" means that I will have expended valuable energy where I could have shared my story instead, and allowed other people to really benefit from my stories. Valuable knowledge gets lost when people have to fight these barriers, and then they don't want to share or participate in the space anymore.

I might come back later and talk about my story, but I'm tired. I'm going to get off the internet and do some self-care, because I respect myself as a tangible person. I personally welcome anyone else to come in and discuss.
posted by yueliang at 2:11 PM on October 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'd like to thank everybody in this thread for their efforts in making an informative discussion from a rather average article.
posted by solarion at 3:37 PM on October 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I more-or-less popularized zucchini after that conversation on Kaz' blog, and in the circles I follow most people very specifically say they don't use the word outside of particular ace communities because it's non-intuitive and difficult to get across. It is effectively, at this point, an in-joke--which is how it started out, as betweenthebars helpfully pointed out. I don't use it that much anymore; while the concept is still incredibly useful, the word itself turned out to be more of a barrier to discussion than anything.

So thanks for that and for the person who linked to the livejournal talking about it.

My honest impression was that it was a pretty cool article - there aren't any words that I would use myself, but it's interesting to see how other people conceptualize them. But when I got to "zucchini" my honest reaction was "is this article making fun of these people?" It was totally context free and having never seen anyone use the word like that it seemed like mockery to me.

If the word is useful for you, great, but this particular article didn't present it in a very helpful way.
posted by GuyZero at 7:23 PM on October 17, 2015


I mean, my first comment here is literally excoriating the article for provoking exactly that knee-jerk reaction. Is there some other reaction you want out of me, GuyZero?
posted by sciatrix at 8:29 PM on October 17, 2015


I'm saying I agree with you? And I'm sincere when I say thanks for the explanation about the whole zucchini thing?

That's it really.
posted by GuyZero at 8:42 PM on October 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ah, okay then; it was unclear to me.
posted by sciatrix at 8:57 PM on October 17, 2015


These are interesting terms, apart from zucchini, which in England would be courgette, and just sounds daft either way.

But as zucchini isn't used in England then its a word that is free to being associated with a new concept, so it would be quite slightly adrift in that it wouldn't relate back to the vegetable in the same way it merits less confusion with the vegetable. I'm sure languagehat could give some good examples of this happening with other crossover words in English variants. Its not a million miles form other languages borrowing from English, or vice versa.
posted by biffa at 3:30 AM on October 18, 2015


But as zucchini isn't used in England then its a word that is free to being associated with a new concept

It isn't used, but most people know that it means courgette, so it isn't completely disassociated and free, and people would be a little confused by it being used this way.

And what solarion said.
posted by marienbad at 5:35 AM on October 18, 2015


Very belatedly, I was reminded that I'm going to be a panelist on a live-streaming FAQ on Wednesday evening. They also take submissions ahead of time if you have questions you want to ask. If you're curious about the experience of asexuality on a more personal level, that's a good thing to check out. (I've done panels like this before, but this looks to be a particularly detailed one.)
posted by sciatrix at 8:04 PM on October 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thought about it some more, and I guess that I can't use "queerplatonic" because that seems to be set up for people for whom this is their primary/only relationship. The first time through I was just so excited that someone else seemed to thinking the same way I was. Sorry!
posted by stoneegg21 at 7:36 PM on October 19, 2015


Not that anybody asked for a followup to my previous comments, but here it is anyway.

I think I was correct in that I'm lacking context, particularly the context of demisexuality. I've seen various summations of demisexuality, and they all amount to "Demisexuals are only sexually attracted to people with whom they have a strong emotional bond." In my personal experience, many of my women friends -- but not most of them -- have talked about their sexuality in a similar way. Enough that it seems, for lack of a better term, "normal" to me. If a woman said to me "I'm only sexually attracted to people with whom I have a strong emotional bond," I'd mentally file it in the same category of women who aren't attracted to men with very little body hair, or women who aren't attracted to men more than a year or two younger than themselves, which is to say sexual reactions that aren't necessarily common, but aren't necessarily rare either.

(I haven't heard any men tell me this, but I've had so few frank discussions of sexuality with men compared to women that I wouldn't consider that significant one way or the other.)

So that's me going from my own limited and flawed experience. It at least has the advantage, though, that I'm forming my impressions based on actual discussions with actual people with different sexual experiences than mine, not just going from my own experience mashed up with what Paul Harvey tells me.

Okay, so I start out by reading the brief (but widely repeated) description and thinking "Okay, so this is not an unusual experience of human sexuality." But based on my impressions from this thread and other sites I've looked at, that doesn't seem to be considered a supportive or validating thing to say.

I understand that it's invalidating (not to mention untrue) to say "demisexuality doesn't exist, you're kidding yourself." And I understand how it's also invalidating (and also untrue) to say "that's how all people feel" or "that's how all women feel." But is it invalidating to say "Most people don't have that sexual reaction, but it's not rare and you're perfectly within the bounds of normal human experience"? Based on my attempts to educate myself, it feels like there's a rough consensus that yes, that's invalidating. I can't really discern why, though.

I'm feeling frustrated in that most of the material written about demisexuality is written by people who have an inherent, personal sense of what demisexuality is, and so I'm feeling a bit like a colorblind person being told that red is not green. However, my experience with all corners of the internet is that coming into a community and asking questions as an outsider is likely to be seen as invasive, confrontational and rude -- whether it's a political forum or a star trek fan site -- so I'm not eager to rush over to a discussion group where these are active topics and get my questions answered there.

I don't have a conclusion here. My default stance is to let people call themselves what they want to call themselves and not worry about it unless for some reason it really affects my life, which it never does. There's no reason why that stance can't work here. But by saying "I don't get it, but I'm not going to worry about it," I don't really feel like I'm being any more supportive or validating or progressive or helpful than someone who says "bah, kids these days with their prefixes and their suffixes." I'm just being quieter.
posted by lore at 5:12 PM on October 21, 2015


Yeah, my experience of my own sexuality very much falls within the definition given for demisexuality, but it isn't something I see as a part of my identity or a label I use for pretty much those reasons, on reflection. I suppose it isn't really normative even if it is normal, what with the way social narratives about sexuality go (particularly for men) which I could understand creating a need for an oppositional identity (in the sense that any non-normative identity is oppositional)?
posted by Dysk at 5:48 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


But is it invalidating to say "Most people don't have that sexual reaction, but it's not rare and you're perfectly within the bounds of normal human experience"? Based on my attempts to educate myself, it feels like there's a rough consensus that yes, that's invalidating. I can't really discern why, though.

I can't speak for demi people. But if I were talking to somebody about being bi, and they said the bit about bounds of normal human experience, I'd find it invalidating. I find the reasoning behind my reaction both obvious and difficult to explain, which may mean it's one of those "red is not green" issues, but it certainly feels like I ought to be able to explain it.

The phrase "that sexual reaction," I think, is kind of a key. It talks about the identity as though it were a series of discrete events. And yes, if all sexuality was, was a series of discrete events, that would be a reasonable thing to say. So, for me, if I'm talking to a guy about being bi, and he confesses he once slept with another guy, that doesn't really give us any kinship, you know? It's an event, versus a sense of identity. Yes, given the vast range of human experience, lots of us share similar events in our history. But not all of us find the sum of these events adding up to a discrete identity. Some of us do, and it's a change. It's not like you're cut off from the grand parade of humanity or anything, but you're different, and that difference is valuable to you. Often understanding that difference took a lot of years of thought, and it can be a precious thing, a point of real communion when you find other people like you. And to have that snipped away, even in the guise of being called normal, is invalidating.

And it's especially invalidating when there's such a history of violence and control around it. When you say "normal human experience," you're saying something that to you is a very benign thing, but in the wrong hands, "normal" becomes a point of insult and assault. This is a point that feels like it should be so obvious, because there's so much violence that happens when people try to maintain their identities. But there's some sort of continuum between someone taking it upon themselves to call you perfectly normal, and taking it upon themselves to have a more direct and violent control over your person. When someone states an identity, even when (or especially when) we don't get it, we need to think really hard about how to protect that person. And I think it's fair to explicitly ask, as you have, how does one support, validate, help, in each case?

It's okay not to get it, deep down, I think. I don't understand monosexuality at all. My instinct is always that someone is lying when they say they're straight, just because it's an inconceivable stance for me. But the only moral thing to do is believe what they say, and try to imagine what it must be like to be them, to empathize. Obviously that's a little different, since straight people don't really need support in being straight, but the push towards trying to understand people is the good and healthy instinct.
posted by mittens at 6:36 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I agree that "sexual reaction" is a poorly chosen term, I just couldn't think of another way to phrase it at the time.

Everyone has their own experience, of course, but I haven't felt invalidated by the idea that bisexuality is a normal part of the human experience. Certainly the concept can be phrased in an aggressive or dismissive way ("Shut up, you're not a special snowflake, nobody cares") but the principle seems to me to be the ideal state of affairs.

But then, that's one reason I haven't gotten more involved in bisexual politics. I looked into it post-college and most of the people involved seemed more interested in building up "we're discriminated against by the straights AND the gays" cred than actually addressing how we can work against the discrimination that affects all queer people. Maybe things are different now, but again people are people, and I find it difficult to build consensus with groups whether I'm part of the group or not.
posted by lore at 8:41 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Please forgive a little more woolgathering.

I feel like "once slept with another guy" DOES give a little bit of kinship. Sexuality is a spectrum, and I think anything that acknowledges and embraces that fact improves the world. I have no interest in guarding the borders of bisexuality from intruding straight folks who are trying to get in because they sucked a dick in college. Yay! You're on the spectrum! Come on in! (I'm not saying you're guarding the borders, I don't know, but man, some people are guarding those motherfucking borders. I'm going to get a bit ranty here, but it's not addressed at you, mittens, it's addressed at attitudes I see in the bisexual community.)

In this scenario, I find myself in great sympathy with the theoretical college cocksucker. He meets someone who's openly bisexual, shares something of himself that's intensely personal, something he may feel uncertain or torn about, only to be told "Hey, you're not like me, stop pretending you are." I just can't see how that helps anyone.

And this relates to my confusion on demisexuality. Much like bisexuality, it's presented both as a spectrum, and as an identity, and those two presentations are at odds. If bisexuality is the big wide area between "totally straight" and "totally gay," then you have to accept that there are people who are "a little bisexual." Conversely, if you're taking the attitude that you're only bisexual if you're sufficiently bisexual, then you're really just participating in a sort of identity NIMBYism. Occasionally involved in a little man-on-man NSA? Sorry, that's not bisexual enough, go away, you're invalidating my experience, go talk to the straights. Oh, they don't want you either? Not my problem, bisexuality is MY word, go find your own.

I don't know enough about the demisexual world to know if there's that sort of gatekeeping. What little I've seen, as well as my experience with everyone with an opinion on anything, anywhere, tells me there's at least some going on, but maybe the not-allosexual community will end up surprising me.
posted by lore at 9:04 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, to put on the bi hat for a moment, there is behavioral bisexuality, people who are entirely comfortable playing or swinging or on the down low. Most will never call themselves gay or bi because they experience no cognitive dissonance with exceptions.

In contrast, I am coming out as bi again at 44 because that dissonance does harm me, on spiritual, psychological, and physical levels, (even though it's been decades since I've dated.) Part of that is the feeling that I need my own lit, religion, and community that is not about celebrating heterosexuality as a cultural system.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:55 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


lore, I definitely get what you're saying about gatekeeping, designating some identities as more radical, and defining terms to others' exclusion, and I've seen all those things happen among people of minority sexual and gender identities, but I also don't see them as in any way specific to people with those identities. It's just one of the things that humans do. People manage to do it in, like, board game fandoms, even. So while I wouldn't doubt that it might occur in demisexuality communities, especially as they get bigger, I don't think that says anything about the validity or usefulness of the identity.

Your point about the spectrum concept is interesting, and it's one of those things that comes up a lot in discussion of autism as well as gender and sexuality. I don't know whether it's a great model, but my thinking there is similar to what it is here: these identities represent normal variations in human behavior, personality, etc., like you say. They aren't "abnormal"; we're just better at accommodating and understanding some traits than others. Demisexuality is a useful concept because it helps some people to understand their experiences and relationships better, especially when mainstream ways of portraying sexuality invalidate them, and I imagine that's why those communities exist. I think this can all become more complicated when we start to talk about political action and who is agitating for what and who is allied with whom, but that's a much broader problem of identity politics. (Do people still use that term or is it outdated? I honestly don't know. And sorry if this is a mess; I'm feeling very inarticulate today.)
posted by thetortoise at 10:19 AM on October 22, 2015


So one thing that really bothers me about the whole "this is a normal variant of human sexuality, why you gotta name it" thing is that when I try to talk about my experiences as someone with a, hm, variant of sexuality that doesn't get talked about... I get a lot of pushback. It's surprisingly hard to do, and I find responses like "...okay, so? I don't really care" to be nearly as dispiriting as responses like "That's not a thing" or "Man, I would be really sad to be like that."

That kind of microaggressive, dismissive pushback is a major reason that a lot of people on the ace spectrum--and, in my experience, a lot of bi- or pan-identified people--can be defensive about how much their identity matters and be invested in pushing to be heard. It's incredibly frustrating, especially when there are a lot of reasons I just want to be able to talk about being ace as a fact of my life without having to make it a big deal, but no one hears me when I try to actually talk about that.

Another issue is that mittens is totally right that "normal" is an incredibly loaded word. Lore, I am not sure whether you're using that word to mean "common" or "not broken," but no one in ace communities is pushing for the idea that asexuality and other asexual-spectrum identities aren't part of the normal range of human experience and human sexuality. Far from it, actually! The thing that you do see discussion about is what's common, and the fraught thing about that is that "everyone feels that way, what are you talking about" is a common response used to silence ace people... who in other contexts, sometimes even from the same people, will be told "wow, that's totally abnormal, have you seen a doctor?" That can be a really confusing thing for people to navigate, and I suspect that context-less definitions that reduce identities to sound bites without detail make things worse rather than better.

There's definitely a level of, hm, identity policing in the ace community, which is most obviously an issue to me right now on so-called "asexual advice" blogs. I've written extensively about that before (as part of several other people in the ace-spectrum community criticizing prescriptive comments about identity), and I literally just saw a friend of mine flare up a post criticizing those blogs for telling other people how to identify this morning. So community norms may be changing from what I'm familiar with, but there's still a lot of pushback about what's okay with respect to handling questioning people and what isn't.

The way that ace communities have historically negotiated the grey edges of identities is to first name a grey, not-quite-this-or-that space and use that as a way to discuss or share experiences of people on those edges, and simultaneously insist that identities are a matter of personal choice and, mm, a thing that should be used to describe personal desires rather than behavior. Demisexuality is actually in and of itself one of those staked-out areas of being grey-asexual.

So a very ace-spectrum community response to a dude who slept with a dude once in college would be to ask "well, okay, do you want to do it again? Do you experience sexual attraction to dudes sometimes? Why did you sleep with that guy--was it experimenting, or was it out of a desire to feel experienced, or did you just think he was hot? What did you want to get out of it?" And then, to ask "Okay, say you thought he was hot and you wanted to, so you did. Do you think that was just that one guy, or do you feel attracted to guys on a semi regular basis?" And after that, "Okay, so it was one guy. Do you feel like "bisexual" would be a useful label for you to communicate about your desires and your experiences of feelings to other people? Or would heterosexual work better, if it was just once? Or hey, do you need another word--what about heteroflexible, I heard someone say that once. What will best help you talk about things, if you want to talk?" There's a lot of room for people to label things according to what is most useful for communication rather than according to theoretical binaries.
posted by sciatrix at 11:44 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sexuality is psychological but it is also political and cultural, a system for, among other things, defining kinship, and distribution of certain kinds of property. The whole Disney princess thing as an example.

My experience of not straight, maybe not cis, not able to fall magically in love since I'm high functioning crazy, is that system makes me more crazy.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:06 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Argh, this is frustrating. A lot of what you're saying, sciatrix, feels like a restatement of what I've been saying, or at least completely compatible with what I've been saying, but the way you phrase it makes it sound like you believe you're disagreeing with me.

I address the fact that "normal" can be used in a dismissive or aggressive way. I made it clear that "normal" the way I'm using the term is not the same as "common." I specifically say that I'm not trying to stamp out new words. So I'm not sure why you're addressing me as if I don't want demisexual to be an accepted word, informing me that normal is a loaded term, and saying you don't know if I'm using "normal" to mean "common."

I don't know what to make of that.

I will say that my experience matches that of thetortoise, in that I end up feeling this same sense of frustration when I try to discuss anything online, including board games, agnosticism, role-playing games, polyamory, BDSM, bisexuality, and the meaning of life. I feel like I communicate well; I am told that I communicate well; I have been paid to communicate well. But I inevitably reach the point where people are eager to tell me things that either seem completely orthogonal to what I'm trying to say, or completely parallel.

However, this thread is not about me or my experience, and I apologize for making this portion of it about me and my experience. I just want to make it clear that I'm not trying to say "people in the asexuality community are confusing and frustrating" except insofar as people are invariably confusing and frustrating, particularly when they talk about stuff online.

Having said that, I'm going to try really, really hard to bow out of this thread. Thanks for the information, I have learned things here even if it sounds like I haven't.
posted by lore at 4:53 PM on October 22, 2015


CBrachyrhynchos: distribution of certain kinds of property. The whole Disney princess thing as an example.

So, I keep coming back to the thread, thinking I have something to say, then getting tangled up in my own over-explanatory leaden prose, so I'm going to leave off my thousand-page screed about my current identity crisis, and just say the idea of Disney Princesses demonstrating a sexualized mode of distribution of property makes me laugh and clap my hands in delight!
posted by mittens at 9:31 AM on October 23, 2015


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