Let’s talk about doin’ it.
See, MTV was interviewing me the other day and they wouldn’t let up with questions about what I do with the intimate regions of my schedule. Now, whatever scruples I may have had about throwing my personal escapades to the paparazzi feeding frenzy have long since passed. I set out in this world to create discussion about all the details of this whole nonsexual thing, and when it comes to dropping public discourse my own, shall we say, personal experience is that the dirt makes the diva.
When it comes to explicit aerotic details of nonsexual intimacy you all know that I just love the language. I’ve got the kind of mind that loves nothing better than dreaming up new, provocative ways to describe the way that intimate things go on. Deep down inside my own personal mission, let’s call it a hobby, is to make you see so much possibility outside of the bounds of bump-n-grind sexual relationships that you break out in a sweat. There’s a reason words are one of the favorite nonsexual tricks I keep up my sleeve, they can unite whole communities, caress emotions, they can redefine love in the very moments you are having it. But baby, I wouldn’t want you to think that words are all I got.
Just ‘cuz I can talk dirty doesn’t mean that all I know how to do is talk.
See, I like doin’ it. And that’s good because I’m doin’ it every night of every week and for most of the day on weekends. Don’t get me wrong, I provide serious attention to my professional responsibilities and I am dedicated to the work that remains to be done on AVEN, but my number one priority is exploring every possibility and every sensation that my relationships can offer me. Every interesting possibility anyway. So get nice and comfortable, we’re gonna take a little guided tour of my nonsexual experiences in the field. A warning for anyone new to asexual relationship dynamics or otherwise squeamish about nontraditional methods of getting’ it on: all of the intimate relationships I’m going to talk about are with sexual people and none of them involve sex.
I engage in something called Community Based Intimacy. That means that what most people do in their relationship with their boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse I do in my relationship with my entire community. Because I’m asexual I couldn’t date in the strictly traditional sense even if I wanted to. And for a long time that was really confusing because without dating I had no way to know which people I was supposed to be in love with and which people were just my friends. Without a system like to think about their relationships many people feel alone and isolated. For this reason people who can’t engage in strictly traditional dating, like asexual people, seek out less traditional ways of thinking about relationships. These range from simply dating without having sex to mixing elements from traditionally sexual romantic relationships and traditionally nonsexual friendships to radically redefining the way that relationships are described and categorized. Community Based Intimacy is a system of thinking about relationships which holds that special significance can not be given to one boyfriend or girlfriend, or even to a small cadre of partners. The core idea is that every relationship has to be thought about the same way because every relationship matters. Here’s a snapshot of what that looks like for me right now:
I have three primary relationships, about a dozen secondary relationships and another hundred or so people I keep in touch with. One of those primary relationships is with an individual and the other two are with groups, which means that there are a total of about nine people that collectively make up what for most people would be a girlfriend or a boyfriend. This has its advantages and its disadvantages, it’s relatively stable and there’s lots of variety, but scheduling can be a nightmare. More on that later.
Let’s start with my most traditional primary relationship, which is with my friend Karuna. Karuna and I have had a strong creative bond ever since we met. Both of us are people who put ourselves out there, and our relationship is built around supporting one another when we need to go out on a limb. We sing karaoke, improvise elaborate routines on the dancefloor and spend hours sipping tea and reflecting on our lives. Whenever we get together there’s this powerful creative, supportive energy that I’ve come to count on. She’s a part of why I don’t sweat appearances on national television.
W e hang out once a week or more, usually in a way that involves a lot of laughing and expressing ourselves in public. We’re affectionate and have committed to being there for one another, at least for the foreseeable future. Karuna also has a boyfriend and there’s a clear sense of how her relationship with him and her relationship with me compliment each other. I’m working my way to becoming friends with him as well.
My next primary relationship is with On Your Left (or OYL), an activist crew that’s in to gossip, dancing, elaborate adventures and causing trouble. Because the relationship is with three people instead of one it’s more reliable (since at least one member of the group is likely to be around), but it’s harder to get the kind of intense emotional connection going that a one-on-one relationship can have. And that’s not a problem, support and safety and reflection are what I do in my relationship with Karuna, my relationship with OYL is a place for pushing limits and breaking laws, though we only really break laws in the service of social justice. We get together once a week to ride 14 miles through San Francisco on a mix of bikes and rollerblades. We spend the first half of the trek discussin political issues in San Francisco and around the world and the second half gossiping about our love lives. We also get together on weekends to go dancing and eat dinner, and out activist roots make us a hotbed for political activity. A couple of hours ago we all got together to take on a multimillion dollar corporate PR campaign, with some pretty amazing results.
So, I’ve got a place to be safe and a place to be excited, the only thing left is a place to be comfortable. Intensity is all well and good, but in my experience the hardest thing to do in a relationship is to get comfortable hanging out for no reason. My relationship with the Hotpocket, a group vaguely constituting my housemates and their close friends, is my family and my foundation here in the Bay. In the year and a half I’ve lived here we’ve build up an amazing rapport, and I know that whatever else happens I’ll have a place where I sit back and crack jokes and let everything else slip away.
It’s called the Hotpocket because when I first moved in someone commented that with three bachelors living in an apartment the only thing in our fridge would be hotpockets and beer. We do things like bread and fry all of our vegetables and watch anchorman. Actually we do exactly that at least once every six weeks. We’ve gotten a kick out of decorating our living room (pirates), our kitchen (pictures of pork and pork-related products) and our bathroom (movie stars in bathtubs/awkward-looking porn.) We cook for each other, go on trips together, and have accrued more house traditions than a kibbutz.
Those three relationships make up the core of my life. I do something with each person/group once a week if not more, and between the three of them they provide a good chunk of the experiences that I want my life to consist of, everything from dancing to fighting for what I believe in to cooking elaborate dinners. For most other things there are my secondary relationships, friends I see more rarely and friends out of town who fill in the rest of my life and calendar. These are people and groups that I hang out with every other week to once a month, these relationships run the gamut from professional advice to performance art to up-and-coming relationships vying for primary status.
Do the math: if I have a full time job, devote one night a week to each of my three primaries, one night every two-to-four weeks to my secondaries, have occasional conversations with the hundred or so other relationships floating in the ether, put in 10-20 hours a week on AVEN and leave time to meet new people I wind up having to move at quite a clip. It can be overwhelming at times.There are definite disadvantages compared to more traditional romantic ways of doing relationships. It’s harder to keep track of what’s going on, and even though there’s a lot less at stake in each individual relationship it’s almost guaranteed that at any time there will be some sort of drama going on somewhere in the social network. For better and worse there isn’t the kind of intense emotion that people feel when they just focus on their partnerships, I don’t fall in love the way some of my friends do because falling in love like that means that for a brief moment you have one person be everything.
On the flipside there’s a lot more that happens in most communities than could ever happen with one individual person. A whole community won’t leave a nasty note and storm out the front door- whenever one relationship fades there are plenty of others to keep things steady. Because I’ve got lots of relationships to call on I’m rarely without the support that I need, and because things are always changing I never feel trapped or bored.
But honestly, practicalities aside, my biggest turn-on is power. Whenever a job opens at VolunteerMatch people around the office will submit a spattering of resumes from their friends and acquaintances, I’ll forward on five or six. Every electoral cycle I’m worth anywhere from a hundred to a thousand votes to a candidate or issue of my choosing once my community is mobilized and we’ve hit the pavement. There is a lot that couples can do together, but communities’ unmatched ability to come together and change their world makes the possible things that I can do with mine virtually limitless. So if any of you out there are hording your hopes and dreams on that special someone, take some time and think about what could happen if you share the love.