The sexual divide

General discussion about relationship issues.
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ghosts
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The sexual divide

Postby ghosts » Wed May 21, 2008 8:38 am

I'm not sure how this topic will go, 'cause I'm not sure how well I can get my thoughts together on this.

Anyway, I think we're aware that sex is generally used as a way to distinguish romantic relationships from friendships. And that's one of the big problems that asexual people have when it comes to relationships - society deems the most intimate, important relationships as those that are sexual. Romantic relationship = sexual, friendship = nonsexual. Asexuals have been left without models from which to structure & understand their own relationships, because it seems to be common knowledge that if you're not having sex in a romantic relationship, there's something wrong, that it's not quite serious, and so on. And many of us wonder whether our closest relationships will ever be taken seriously if they are nonsexual.

But, I guess what I'd like to talk about is sexuality within a relationship. I think that if (generalized) we know of a close relationship that is sexual, we automatically assume certain things - that it's a romantic relationship, I guess. But then again, there are the terms "f*ck buddy" & "friends with benefits" to clearly distinguish between one type of relationship and the other, regardless of whether or not sex is involved.

Maybe there are some differences between a sexual romantic relationship and a f*ck buddy for those who would use those terms. But the terms for sexual friendships are a bit more crude, aren't they? "Romantic relationship" is one entirely different relationship, it seems, but friends that have sex aren't significantly changing their relationship, and it's not given an elevated status among a person's other relationships.

So what exactly happens when you introduce sex into a relationship? If I'm having sex with someone I call a "friend", does that mean that I'm just being used, or vice versa? Does it mean we're not committed to each other because we're not monogamous, or because we're not calling each other our boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever? Is it a less serious relationship? Are we just f*ck buddies or something? Friendships aren't supposed to be sexual. If you're not "dating" someone or defining your relationship in a certain way, it's hard for people to grasp you having sex with someone unless it's for purely physical reasons - at least, that's the impression I tend to get. Of course, I may refer to this person as a friend, but that's primarily an aid to communicate to others about our relationship. In reality, it is a close relationship that is hard to categorize...

Sooooooooo... I guess that's it! Looking back at what I've posted, I hope this isn't too scattered & confusing. But yeah - discuss if you so desire.

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spin
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Re: The sexual divide

Postby spin » Wed May 21, 2008 8:58 am

A good friend of mine has a f*ck buddy who she'll sometimes describe as such. They started out as being in a quasi-romantic sexual relationship, but were never quite "dating" and soon decided that would be a bad idea. They aren't romantically interested in each other, they're not the closest of friends, but when they're both in town and available they'll have sex because they know and like each other and they enjoy sex. Pretty simple, and as you say it doesn't significantly change their relationship.

I think one thing you've hit on is commitment. These two are not committed to each other, though other friends with nonmonogamous sexual relationships might be.

For ease of communication, my personal tendency would be to call a committed (not necessarily monogamous) relationship, whether sexual or nonsexual, either intimate or romantic because it implies to me a distinct closeness and concern for the wellbeing of the other person which I associate with those terms.

I think these are really questions of what certain people attach strings to.

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Dargon
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Re: The sexual divide

Postby Dargon » Wed May 21, 2008 4:49 pm

I think spin neatly wrapped this whole thing up. I have nothing to add.

This does bring up an interesting side-thought. As you have said, ghosts, we are told that it is sex that defines the difference between "just friends" and "romantic partners;" however, many sexuals do seem quite aware of the difference between "f*ck buddies" and "romantic partners." Perhaps, then, by further looking into that difference, both asexuals and sexuals could better understand the difference between "just friends" and "romantic partners" in both sexual and non-sexual relationships.

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spin
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Re: The sexual divide

Postby spin » Thu May 22, 2008 7:59 am

no!! This is an important topic, I don't want to be a conversation stopper.

And I think that's a really good point, Dargon, which the asexual community would do well to draw peoples' attention to. It's clearly not about sex, if some people have not only one night stands with strangers (something AVENites like to talk about) but casual sex with friends.

But is that really a kind of relationship that's accepted? I get the impression most people would still make assumptions about sexual friends' emotional attachment.

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ghosts
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Re: The sexual divide

Postby ghosts » Thu May 22, 2008 12:37 pm

Dargon wrote:Perhaps, then, by further looking into that difference, both asexuals and sexuals could better understand the difference between "just friends" and "romantic partners" in both sexual and non-sexual relationships.

The difference? I don't think it'd be that easy to pin down, as there wouldn't be just one difference (but I might not be understanding you here...).

Commitment is a big factor, of course. But I still feel like I'm trying to get at something else here, but I can't quite word it properly.
spin wrote:But is that really a kind of relationship that's accepted? I get the impression most people would still make assumptions about sexual friends' emotional attachment.

What kinds of assumptions do you think they'd make?

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Shockwave
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Re: The sexual divide

Postby Shockwave » Thu May 22, 2008 2:14 pm

There are three different things I can think of that people use as dividing lines between friendship and romance; sex, commitment and love.

As has been mentioned, many people think sex makes it a romantic relationships. But to me sex wouldn't change a relationship, at least not for the better.

Other people say commitment is the deal-maker. However, I have been in some very committed relationships that would not be considered romantic. They were very strong friendships though.

Love. I've heard people say that they like their friends but don't love them, that love is something else that they feel only for that special someone. I don't see it that way though. The only difference between the two is how strong the feeling is, not what kind of feeling it is.

My point is, I don't see a clear line between the two. Once in a while I decide that I want a certain relationship to be romantic, so I call it that. There is no other difference.

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Dargon
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Re: The sexual divide

Postby Dargon » Thu May 22, 2008 2:28 pm

ghosts wrote:
Dargon wrote:Perhaps, then, by further looking into that difference, both asexuals and sexuals could better understand the difference between "just friends" and "romantic partners" in both sexual and non-sexual relationships.

The difference? I don't think it'd be that easy to pin down, as there wouldn't be just one difference (but I might not be understanding you here...).


I know the difference is hard to pin down; trying to figure it out makes my head spin. What my point here is, is most people, sexual or asexual, are aware there is a difference between a "friends with benifits" and a "romantic sexual" relationship. With this in mind, sex as the dividing line between friendship and romance pretty much becomes bunk.

My thoughts on why this difference is important to use in discussion:

Many asexuals see a difference between friendship and romantic relationships, even if both do not involve sex.
Sexuals often have difficulty with the concept of romance without sex
However, sexuals can often tell the difference between a friends with benifits relationship and a romantic sexual relationship (even if that difference is hard to pinpoint)
Since sex can happen in casual friendships, there must be more than just sex that differentiates friendship from romance.
By exploring the difference between friends with benifits relationship and sexual romantic relationships, both of which sexuals are likely better able to relate to than non-sexual romantic relationships, perhaps sexuals (and perhaps even asexuals) can get a better understanding of what elements play a part in romantic relationships that are independent of sex.

Man, that's hard to word well. I hope I clarified, but I fear I may have further confused.

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Puppy
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Re: The sexual divide

Postby Puppy » Fri May 23, 2008 4:41 am

Dargon wrote:My thoughts on why this difference is important to use in discussion:

Many asexuals see a difference between friendship and romantic relationships, even if both do not involve sex.
Sexuals often have difficulty with the concept of romance without sex
However, sexuals can often tell the difference between a friends with benifits relationship and a romantic sexual relationship (even if that difference is hard to pinpoint)
Since sex can happen in casual friendships, there must be more than just sex that differentiates friendship from romance.
By exploring the difference between friends with benifits relationship and sexual romantic relationships, both of which sexuals are likely better able to relate to than non-sexual romantic relationships, perhaps sexuals (and perhaps even asexuals) can get a better understanding of what elements play a part in romantic relationships that are independent of sex.

Man, that's hard to word well. I hope I clarified, but I fear I may have further confused.

That explanation makes sense to me. I couldn't have explained it better myself. I don't believe thre's only one major difference, though...

*goes back lurking* I really like reading these threads although I rarely post. :)
It takes a fool to remain sane.

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Dargon
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Re: The sexual divide

Postby Dargon » Fri May 23, 2008 4:29 pm

I know I keep using the singular term "difference," but by "difference" I moreso mean "the set of differences, small or large, that may play independent or interwoven roles."

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Placebo
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Re: The sexual divide

Postby Placebo » Sat May 24, 2008 6:43 pm

I like the idea about commitment. I think it works on several levels though, it's sort of related to prioritizing and time spent in a relationship, I guess.

Like, you could be committed to someone, as in, you are married to them and plan on spending the rest of your life with them but that doesn't necessarily mean that you spend a lot of time with them. I'm thinking of lots of married couples that are sort of grown apart, maybe their marriage is a little rough around the edges.

Or you can have people where spending time with them is very high on your priority list. Oftentimes, I think that where each of you has the other as the first priority (or at least consistently in the top three, obviously there will be fluctuations) that is where you start to have the potential for an intimate relationship. So, in many romantic (sexual?) relationships, where people start sort of dumping their friends and spending more time with each other, that would be symptomatic of that. Presumably that growth of dependency on each other or of spending time with each other is what leads to the depth/intensity/intimacy of the relationship. And in many (romantic) relationships you may have this but you may not necessarily be long-term committed to each other; or you start out so and then change or grow apart or split up or something. Whatever.

Then you could have a situation where you have both, where you are not only high on each other's 'priority list' and also you are committed to each other, as in planning your futures around each other to at least some extent.

I have had several friends in the past where we were each at the top of the other's priority list (most of the time)--so that would be a fairly intimate relationship. In my mind it was not romantic, although in all of those cases I was close enough to the people involved that I would consider that I love them in a similar way as I love my family members. We ended up not being committed to each other in the sense that our lives have separated to some extent, but we are still good friends. Then I have had other friends where we were friends and we hung out a lot, but either of us would regularly have other commitments--significant others, family, other friends, whatever. So that's kind of a different level for me, friends versus Friends or something, maybe. :)

Ok, so the stuff above can probably go for both sexual and asexual relationships, I think. I guess sex could also fit into it at any of the levels. So the bottom level, the non-priority friends, would be where friends with benefits/fuckbuddies would probably fall. I personally can not connect with the idea of a romantic relationship, but I do get the idea of what you guys are calling an intimate relationship/strong friendship, and I have one of those with my friend that is also sexual in nature. In that case I view the sexual component as growing out of the friendship, in that this is one of the ways that my friend shows emotions, namely love. I view my friend first and foremost as a friend, but it would be more like a Friend with a capital letter, because it is much more intense than that of more casual friendships I've been in. So, because of that, I don't think of having sex as being used in this case--for one thing, this is a monogamous relationship, so even if we don't view it that way, it looks like a Relationship to the rest of the world (or would, if we told them about it.) Perhaps that friend/Friend distinction is a symptom of my asexual or possibly aromantic view of the world, but whatever.
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