Sunday, January 09, 2022

Perioriented, Variooriented, or Just Grey?

Written in response to the January 2022 Carnival of Aces topic, "Divergence vs. Convergence".

Am I variooriented or perioriented? Tough question.

I identify as grey-ace and (non-grey) aromantic.

Is that perioriented? For a long time, I saw so little distinction between aro and ace that I didn’t identify as aroace, just asexual - similar to how many perioriented allos identify with a single label for both sexual and romantic orientation. When I first came across the concept of separate romantic and sexual orientations, I resented the idea of being asked to split up my own experience into separate bins when I didn’t experience it that way.

Even now, I often struggle to tease apart what aspects of my experience feel more asexual or aromantic to me. For example, is my current journey to single motherhood by choice more of an ace or aro thing? My unwillingness to even consider natural insemination, and the angst I’ve had around needing medical procedures that involve my vaginal area, are definitely more ace-related. But my unpartnered status? Is it because I don’t desire romance enough to seek it out? Or is it because virtually all my potential romantic prospects are sexually incompatible for me?

On the other hand, am I variooriented? When I consider what sex life I might enjoy, I imagine having fetishy queerplatonic bonds with friends with benefits, similar to the ideal sex lives of many allo aros. I have felt sexually objectifying, as I look at a person and don’t really want to consider them as someone beyond how they get me sexually interested, and have wrestled with how I feel about the ethics of that sort of mentality.* And I’ve felt the particular way that struggle intermixes with the way our society stereotypes sexual expression outside of romantic desire.

I have also felt sexually attracted to an actual, real-life person I’ve known, a close friend who doesn’t know about my greyness or my attraction to her. I’ve weighed the costs and benefits of honesty vs ruining our current friendship for something that I know she won’t reciprocate (she’s straight and vanilla afaik), and then concluded that I’m too much of a coward to say anything regardless of what I decide.

When I talk to aroaces, I find we have some things in common and some things not. When I talk to aroallos, I find we have some things in common and some things not. Even when I’ve talked to other aro grey-aces, I’ve found we have some things in common with them and some things not. Each category includes some experiences I strongly relate to, that are definitely not shared by people of other orientations.

The one group within the ace spectrum that I feel the least in common with are alloromantic aces. Even then, talking specifically about sex, we sometimes have things in common. But sexual activities and experiences are often vastly different between alloaces and aroaces, specifically because most alloaces I’ve encountered have or intend to date perioriented allos and therefore have a very different cost/benefit analysis to sexual activity than someone who is unlikely to attempt to date or be motivated to get very far in dating if they do try it.

As for how I discuss this with people who don’t know anything about asexuality? Mostly, I don’t. When I come out, I come out as asexual only, and the vast majority of people assume that means I’m aromantic without knowing that the two could even be separated. The only times I’ve clarified further have been with other queer people or extremely trustworthy straights, or in academic discussions of sexual orientation. Mostly, what uneducated but not actively bigoted people assume about me when I say I’m asexual is correct about me. And I worry that trying to raise awareness that it’s not correct about all aces will lead them to make incorrect assumptions about me.

Besides, I’m usually too concerned about whether they’ll think I’m sexually repressed or my trauma made me ace or I’m making it all up because I’m a stuck-up tease who thinks they’re ugly. There’s a lot more basic misunderstandings I tend to focus on correcting first, and the discussion of the diversity of aces is a side issue for me.

And unless they’re one of the topmost trusted people in my life, a fellow queer, or someone I’m actually considering doing fetish acts with, I don’t mention my greyness at all. I don’t want people thinking that my grey-ace identity outweighs my sexual repulsion, and most people assume ace means sex-repulsed anyway.

* My current stance is that if the person clearly consented to having their image on the public platform I found them on, and I’m not doing any actions that would adversely affect them to fuel my sexual gratification (eg leaving horny comments on a non-sexual youtube video), it’s fine to not actively consider the individual behind the image when I’m seeking sexual gratification.


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