the tricky thing about invasive thoughts is what if they’re right? because their source isn’t always irrational in and of itself, it’s not irrational to worry about megaquakes when you live on the West Coast where the plates sink and melt beneath your feet, where pressure builds offshore for hundreds of years only to one day, one singular unexpected inexplicable moment just snap and send shock waves rippling through earth, water, air and reduce order to chaos, it could happen any time so you start looking for signs just in case, do earthworms on the pavement mean something’s coming, can they feel the tension in the soil about to erupt, is that why the birds are gathered in such strange patterns, the animals restless, was that a tremor just now or the dryer upstairs? and the irony, always the irony that anxiety doesn’t make you better prepared, compulsive obsession doesn’t give you any mastery over these forces, they just make you more aware of all the things that can go wrong, oh are you ever so aware of all the things that can go wrong
it seems these days I just want the dark, the dark and the silence, to curl inward until I am small and round and impenetrable, until my back doesn’t hurt anymore, my arms don’t hurt, my head doesn’t hurt, my heart doesn’t hurt, so many things hurt and nothing seems to touch any of them, not Imitrex or Advil or wrist braces like gauntlets on my arms, only the dark and the silence soothe, only in sleep am I someone who moves without pain, who flies over canyons or swims through oceans, through magma, who bends fire and water and earth, and for every dimension and law of physics I control in my dreams there is another thing uncontrollable when I wake, I doubt that’s irony but it’s cruel anyway
Asexual/Allosexual Relationships and Sex
[ Warning to friends/family/others: I’m going to discuss my sex life below. If that’s TMI for you, I suggest not reading this. ]
After reading PrismaticEntanglement’s post about the topic of sex between allosexuals and asexuals, I decided to write my own post about how my girlfriend and I navigate this difficult topic. I’m going to try to impart some advice based on our experiences; that being said, this is based solely on my personal experience and what worked for us. I’m not an expert – just a person with a blog.
A note before I begin: The advice below is geared toward two sets of people – aces who for whatever reason are considering having a sexual relationship with their partner(s), and allosexuals in relationships with aces who are open to having sex. This is not geared toward sex-repulsed or sex-averse aces; nor is it geared toward allosexual partners who want to try to convince or force their ace partners to have sex. Nothing I say below will work if you’re not both 100% open and willing on your own to enter into this kind of relationship for your own benefit.
Now, that being said, here’s what I have learned during my journey from, “I will never date and never have sex” to “oh my gosh I want to marry this girl and have sexy time with her.”
I know communication is always the number one relationship rule in these kinds of articles, but that’s because it is the number one rule. You have to communicate. Constantly. About everything. No matter how uncomfortable you might be discussing emotions, past trauma, previous sexual experiences, physical wants and desires, and everything else you bring to the bedroom, you have to spill your guts. An ace/allo relationship has to be especially founded on trust and communication to minimize the opportunities for hurt feelings or crossed boundaries.
One area of communication that I feel requires specific focus and emphasis is your shared terms and definitions. When you say “sex”, what do you mean? Do you two have different ideas of when being intimate crosses into sex, or when being affectionate but not sexual crosses into sexual territory? Do you both consider kissing to be sexual, or just romantic? Until you’re both talking the same language, so to speak, it’s easy to think you’re on the same page when you’re really reading two different books. Being open about how you define things like sexual versus non-sexual physical affection, physical intimacy, and sexual intercourse will ensure you understand each others’ wants, needs, and boundaries. Therefore, this rule and all the ones below apply not only to the actual act of sex, but to any physical intimacy between you two.
2) Set Boundaries and Rules
I want you to do something for me. Set aside the notion that “all aces hate sex” and “all allosexuals love sex” right now. Go put it in the trash and take the can to the curb. Wave goodbye. It’s gone. Yay!
In an ace/allo relationship, you both will have certain rules and boundaries when it comes to physical intimacy. The ace isn’t the only one who will have hangups, insecurities, and individual needs. The better you both understand your own relationship with sex, the easier it will be to come together in a physical way. For example, I don’t enjoy giving oral, so while I may change my mind about that in the future, right now its understood that isn’t something I’m willing to do during sexy time. Likewise, my girlfriend has certain hangups due to past experiences that I work around in order to make sure she feels 100% safe and in control the entire time. Also, we’re both very conscientious when initiating anything so that the other person can back out without feeling pressured or guilty.
Take it from me: consent is sexy. My girlfriend always ask permission before going down on me, and that simple recognition of my control and agency is to me one of the most beautiful moments we share.
3) Set Aside Expectations and Assumptions
I know every ace has heard the phrase, “you won’t know unless you try,” when it comes to sex, or its second cousin, “you’ll change your mind when you meet the right person.” I’m not here to tell you either of those is true; I hate hearing them as much as anyone. But I am here to say that… well, they might be for some people. And that’s okay.
I’m literally a cliche; I never wanted to have sex until I met my girlfriend and fell head over heels in love. Now she’s the only person I can imagine ever being physically intimate with – but we didn’t start out that way. When we first began dating, I was very clear I wasn’t interested in sex and needed her to be okay with that. She was, and respected my boundaries. When we first began exploring sexually, it was always my choice and at my speed. And as our physical relationship developed, I discovered I enjoyed being intimate with her. A lot. I only discovered this because I set aside my assumptions not only about what I wanted (or did not want), but also what physical intimacy would be like for me.
So keep an open mind as you move forward in your relationship. Don’t assume you’ll hate having sex, or hate not having sex as often as you want. Don’t assume your partner’s needs if they haven’t voiced them; likewise, be open to questioning your own needs and assumptions, and the fact that they may change over time. Don’t expect to enjoy the same physical activities – not even partners of the exact same orientation will always like the same things when it comes to sex. Everybody is different, and what you like may surprise you – I know I’ve surprised myself on a number of occasions.
Lastly, don’t expect to be sexually compatible and in sync right away. My first kiss with my girlfriend was super awkward (we counted backwards from 3 and had our eyes closed). Neither of us really knew what we were doing as we became more intimate, so the first months involved a lot of giggling and asking, “How does this feel? No? Okay, um… how’s this?” The silly awkwardness is actually a blessing, though, because it removes a lot of the pressure to make the moment super serious and sexy. Sometimes you just need to giggle over the ridiculousness of it all – especially if, like my girlfriend, you’re super ticklish.
4) Take Chances
If you’re asexual, please hear this loud and clear: nothing you do or enjoy physically will ever invalidate your asexuality. You shouldn’t be afraid that trying new things in the bedroom makes you less of an asexual because it doesn’t, it doesn’t, it doesn’t. So if you find yourself wondering about new practices or toys, go for it! As long as you and your partner are both open to the new experience and understand you’re just experimenting, and may decide you don’t like it, you should follow your curiosity.
If you’re allosexual, what I have to say to you is this: please try to be open to your partner’s experimentation. I know there are risks involved – it can be hard to divorce your own self worth from something your partner dislikes. You may wonder if it’s you they actually don’t like, or your body, or something else out of your control. But if you can understand that your partner’s likes and dislikes have nothing to do with you as a person, and have no bearing on your partner’s love for you, then experimentation can be a good way to find what you both enjoy.
One last thing I’ll add here – don’t be afraid to ask questions at sex stores (the respectable ones, at least). I’ve spoken to many knowledgeable employees at Lovers, from the one who answered our most basic questions about lesbian sex to the one who helped us pick out our first toys. We’ve even stumped a few with questions about working around physical disabilities. Every time we were treated respectfully and professionally, no matter how awkward or obvious our questions. Don’t be afraid to be honest about your lack of experience, turn ons and turn offs, and emotional or physical barriers. The employees are there to help and they really do know what they’re talking about – or at least the ones at Lovers do.
5) Give It Time
The virtue I lack most abundantly is patience, and especially so when my relationship is going through a rocky time. I want everything to be fixed and happy and perfect immediately. Unsurprisingly, that isn’t how things work. Even when it comes to sex, finding a happy balance between what each person wants and needs is difficult and takes time; maintaining that balance amid all of life’s stressors is even harder. What I thought would take weeks or months has instead taken years. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade a single day away to speed up the process. Working through problems and finding what makes you both happy serves to strengthen your relationship, both in and out of the bedroom. Will you make mistakes? Yes. Will you get hurt? Of course. But if you choose to see each bump in the road as an opportunity to work together, not against each other, you’ll find the perfect balance.
6) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate (Did I mention communicate?)
Communication is an on-going process in any relationship, and especially one between an ace and allosexual. You need to constantly check in with each other, both during sex and outside of intimate moments. Ask how the other person is doing, how they perceive the relationship is going, and if there’s anything they feel is lacking or causing an issue. Don’t assume that because a certain physical act was okay with your partner two weeks ago, it’s something they still want to do. Check in. Is this still cool? Are we being physical enough? Are we being too physical? Do you want to take a break for a while? Sometimes these conversations can be awkward or difficult, but they’re so incredibly necessary. It’s easy to feel hurt if your partner doesn’t want to engage in something physical, but that hurt can be alleviated by finding out why: maybe they’re tired, or feeling sad, or have a headache. If you don’t ask, you don’t know. So check in, ask questions, and be vocal about your own feelings and needs in the moment and overall.
As I stated before, these are some of the things that work for myself and my girlfriend. I hope they can be of some help to others out there who want to be in an ace/allo relationship involving physical intimacy. I know these kinds of relationships seem daunting, and often get a bad reputation, but with the right partner and hard work they can be incredibly rewarding.
Devotion to the Mother Cat
I’m now three months in to my devotion to Bast. So far things are going well – She seems to approve of my approach to devotion and is clear when She wants something done, or done differently. One thing I have found, though, is that it can be difficult to fit devotions into a busy day, especially if you don’t have the time/energy/wellness to conduct something extended. I know most spiritual people struggle with this, so I thought I’d just mention some of the simple things I do during the week for Bast.
1) Music – I’m lucky that I can often listen to music in my cubicle at work. This gives me an opportunity to honor Bast during the day while otherwise being a boring adult. Below are some of the songs Bast enjoys (with Youtube links):
The Lion King Broadway soundtrack (especially Grasslands Chant, The Lioness Hunt, and Shadowland)
When You Believe – The Prince of Egypt soundtrack
Alegria – Cirque du Soleil
Adiemus – Karl Jenkins/Enya
Awake and In the Land of Twilight – Yuki Kajiura
2) Reading – One thing Bast demanded pretty quickly in my devotion was a focus on cat fiction. Since January I’ve literally only read books with feline characters and She absolutely loves them. Below are some of the books I’d definitely recommend not just to followers of Bast, but to anyone who likes feline fiction – or just really good books in general. (Be warned, though; all of these books are darker than you’d expect and at least two of the Warriors books so far have made me bawl.)
The Named series – Clare Bell
The Warriors series – Erin Hunter
Yeshua’s Cats (books 1 and 2) – C.L. Francisco
Tomorrow’s Sphinx – Clare Bell
Varjak Paw – Sf Said
The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford
Per-Bast: A Tale of Cats in Ancient Egypt – Lara-Dawn Stiegler
3) Jewelry – I’ve been a cat person since I was born, so I already had a lot of cat jewelry when Bast came calling. I’ve asked Her to bless these pieces one by one as I wear them, and now consider them symbols of my devotion. I’ll choose certain ones to wear on days when I feel I need extra strength, guidance, or protection, or just when I want to feel closer to Her.
4) Writing and Art – Two ways I try to honor Bast in my spare time are through writing and art. I can handle the writing part – hymns, prayers, etc – pretty easily, but art not so much. So I’ve taken up practicing drawing cats, mostly doodles on my notes at work, and when I get home I sometimes play dollmaker games online and make depictions of Bast. I think Bast enjoys these because I put time and effort into them, so even though I’m not the one actually drawing the picture, I’m still being creative and thoughtful in Her honor.
There’s a part of me that will never accept there isn’t a spell to bring you back. That part of me will always wonder at the words, the ingredients, the timing. Maybe it’s possible, it will argue. Maybe you just need the right combination of Bradbury and Zelazny, Irish Rovers and Bob Seger, a circle of beach sand sprinkled with Guinness and in the center an eagle feather laid atop a Harley Davidson t-shirt; maybe if you just keep searching you’ll find enough little memories to place at the foot of that weathered stone until one day “No Regrets” won’t make your heart twist to read. And I hate that part of me, but I can’t stand to snuff it out, because what if it’s right?
Some days I want to glean meaning from your death. Other days I know it was just some random shit thing that happened. In my dreams society has crumbled, humanity reduced to warring factions and desperate survival, and still what I miss most as I stand by the ocean is hearing songs on the radio that remind me of you. Upon waking I struggle for a moment, wondering why my mother is dating someone, until I remember (over and over and over) – you’re gone.
Hannibal and Queer-Baiting
[ General spoilers below for both seasons ]
Queer-baiting, the act of hinting at queer characters or relationships without ever openly acknowledging them, is a hot topic right now as TV networks strive to garner LGBT viewership while still adhering to traditional heteronormative narratives. A lot of popular shows are commonly held up as examples of queer-baiting – Sherlock being a popular example – and for the most part these claims are accurate. However, there’s at least one show where the common claim of queer-baiting is not only inaccurate, but acts as erasure of an actual canon queer-platonic relationship: NBC’s Hannibal. NBC’s Hannibal is often cited as an example of queer-baiting due to the deep connection between the two main characters, Dr. Hannibal Lector and Special Agent Will Graham. It’s obvious from season one, and extremely so in season two, that these two men are drawn to each other in a way neither can quite understand. Hannibal is fascinated by Will’s mind, yes, and Will is at first drawn to Hannibal as a mentor and then out of suspicion he may be a killer, but the viewer knows there’s more. The show wants the viewer to know there’s more.
By citing NBC’s Hannibal as an example of queer-baiting, what people are saying is this: because these two characters never have sex or profess romantic love for each other, they can’t have a queer relationship. This erases not only the spectrum of asexuality and aromanticism, but denies the importance and influence of non-romantic love. After all, what is more queer than two seemingly heterosexual men* forming a bond so powerful that one is willing to cripple the other when he feels that bond, and the future possible through that bond, has been betrayed? And what about Will who, in season 2, grows so close to Hannibal that even the viewer is unsure whether he has slipped from the side of the good guys to become Hannibal’s protege?
The relationship between Hannibal and Will is arguably the most fascinating aspect of the show. We watch Will move from disliking Hannibal to cautiously trusting him as a therapist and then, perhaps without Will even realizing it, confiding in him as a friend and mentor. As Will faces situations and experiences no one around him can quite understand, Hannibal becomes the only person to whom Will can turn; the only person, he believes, who he can completely trust with the growing instability of his mind. And even when Will realizes this trust has been incredibly misplaced, season 2 finds him reconnecting with Hannibal – ostensibly to spring the trap on him, but are we sure? Is Will fishing for Hannibal, or learning to hunt with him? Even until the very last episode of the season, we as the viewer don’t know for certain. What we do know is that Will loves Hannibal; and if you love someone, how do you betray them, even when you know it’s the right thing to do? How can Will bear to give up arguably the only person who can truly understand his mind?
Even Hannibal, a brilliant psychopath five steps ahead of everyone else on the show, is blinded by this love to the point of delusion. Despite what we expect to be Hannibal’s inability to love, to feel hope or longing or beauty, he truly wants this life where he and Will are together as partners in crime. And in this life, who is with them? Abigail, the girl they both view as a daughter. Hannibal dreams of a life with Will and Abigail, just the three of them, and seems willing to do anything to achieve it. So when this dream is ripped away from him, Hannibal’s reaction is almost understandable; we see his rage, his grief, his desire to punish. If he cannot have that life, neither can Will. He takes from his beloved what his beloved has taken from him. Haven’t many of us had that desire?
That’s the beauty, and tragedy, of this show. Hannibal and Will can never “work”. They can never be friends or partners. They can never be mentor and mentee. They can never be anything but enemies drawn inexplicably to each other. They love each other, and that love is destructive, abusive, manipulative. But it’s love, whether either of them can admit it.
Anyone who cites NBC’s Hannibal as an example of queer-baiting either hasn’t seen the show or simply didn’t understand what they were watching. Hannibal steps far beyond the usual narrative of gay or lesbian characters and shows us a form of queerness otherwise never represented in mainstream media. Not only that, but it shows us the beauty and danger love can possess, romantic or not. NBC’s Hannibal is a show that celebrates the power of platonic love, even as it uses that love to (pun intended) stick the knife in our hearts and give it a twist.
*While Hannibal engages briefly in sex with a woman in the show, I don’t believe he’s strictly heterosexual/heteroromantic. I think the show gives us too much evidence to suggest Hannibal at least to be on the asexual spectrum, if not also aromantic.