Re: Greyness 301

So about a month ago, Cor wrote a post sharing some notes from the SF Ace Unconference, and you should go read it, because all I’m going to be doing here is tacking on some short thoughts/agreement where applicable.

– Greyness as confusing. As not being sure whether sexual attraction is happening or not, has happened or not, will keep happening or not. This aspect hardly ever gets mentioned in 101s, but almost always in my convos with actual grey folk. The “wtf?? maybe?? is that what this is?? I can’t tell?” factor.

100% me.  Yes.


  • I think a lot of time confusion around “Do I experience sexual attraction?” comes from asexual-spectrum people not understanding how sexual attraction, as a term, is distinct from other concepts.  But there are some of us for whom that uncertainty just does not go away, no matter how much you research and analyze and set aside time for introspection.
  • There are some gray-aces who feel like they’re in the middle on a line between allosexual and asexual (and express certainty in that regard, and feel very clear in the moment about when someone’s sexy and when they’re not) but the existence of this type of gray-as does not mean that “experiences sexual attraction infrequently” is a fair or accurate way to define the gray area as a whole or the experiences of every gray-a person.
  • Greyness can be messy, can be confusing, can be hazy.  It’s an umbrella term, and one of the (quite common) experiences under that umbrella is one of fog, not fluidity.
  • When you try to talk about what greyness is, all of it, and try to summarize and define it and encapsulate the whole of it, but you don’t talk about uncertainty, or about faintness, or about shrugging and confused noises, or about vague noncommital wiggly hand gestures, or about question marks and approximations and nearest-points-of-reference, then you have not covered what gray-asexuality means to many people who identify with it.
  • Bless you, Cor.
  • also “coined by: unknown” lol you literally could have just googled it.

– Conceptualizing “who am I / would I be sexually attracted to” based on a database of past experiences. Not abstract fantasy, not being able to fantasize about a generic or cobbled-together figure. Being able to deduce patterns from past experience on a cognitive, analytical level (eg “they’ve all been brunettes”), not a visceral one. “Type” as a statistical probability model.

In my own case, I can’t even figure out a pattern to it in retrospect, but this “not being able to fantasize about a generic or cobbled-together figure” is very relevant for me.

– Repulsion as a clearer experence than attraction. Still confusing sometimes. Building a database of repulsion and analyzing for a pattern, again. Not knowing in advance if an act with a person will be attractive/repulsive/indifferent, because again, abstract fantasy (even with a specific person, if a certain act you haven’t done with them yet).

  • I hadn’t thought about comparing the two, but now that gli mentions it, “yuck do not want” is a lot more visceral and immediate and clear than “wait what is this? some kind of attraction maybe, feels almost– oh and now it’s dissolving already, bye.  okay.  wonder what that was about.”
  • Also: repulsion also being confusing sometimes, too, yes.  I wish there were some additional term for identifying as neither sex-averse/repulsed nor sex-favorable, but also not indifferent, because I’m not indifferent (most of the time?).  I’ve felt shades of all the popular terms at different times/toward different stimuli and taken useful things (personally useful things) from discussions at every end, but I can’t settle on any of them as a static overall identity, not at the time being.  It’d be convenient to have a word for that.  Sex-variable?  Sex-ambivalent? [edit: arcflux!]
  • But then again, it might work better to use “repulsed” and “favorable” and “indifferent” as experiences/feelings specific to a given moment, and in place of an identity, just say, “I’m all things, some of the time.”

– Not being able to use past experience before identifying as grey and using the grey lens, because can’t be sure of misinterpreting or reinterpreting to fit a theory. How to tell if your sexuality shifted, or was fluid? How to tell if you were simply unaware? How to tell if you were processing things differently than you are now?

 Yeah… If anything, I think I may have been more asexual than now during my teenage+preteen years, but ???  There’s no way to know.  All I’m comfortable applying a label to is the current me.

– What is curiosity, versus attraction? How to tell the difference, and how to explore responsibly? What is “using” people, what is okay? (What needs to be disclosed, and when, and how do you when it’s unclear in the first place?)

Not sure I relate to this one as much (maybe because I never act on attraction though — eh I dunno), but what this brings to mind for me:

  • There are people who Do Not want to date people who are asexual or not sexually attracted to them, and there are people who Do Not want to have sex with people who are asexual or not sexually attracted to them.  What do these people make of gray-asexual and quoisexual people?  What do these people make of “not sure if I’m sexually attracted to you, or how much, or how consistently”?  Does that get read as a ploy, as getting their hopes up, as unfairly noncommital, as an insult, as too tepid to count as “real” or probable (therefore grouping in grays with “might as well be asexual”), or is that close enough for jazz, sufficient to assume “probably so” (therefore grouping in grays with “might as well be Normal like us”)?
  • Is it more polite just to not let them know?  Is that ideal?
  • To what extent is “I’m not sure” (with regard to attraction) accepted as valid?  Is the response gendered, attributed to nuerodivergence, to deception, etc.?
  • Is there a way to make room for uncertainty in social scripts without a primary focus on resolving it?

– Greyness as privacy. Umbrella terms as comfortably vague, ala queer. So personal, may not even want a “clear” identity. What to disclose to who and when.

Yes.  Also:

  • I like the “gray area” sentiment of the term because I legitimately don’t know a better way to put it into words.
  • However, this aspect of “gray-asexual” as a word/term/identity is only useful with people who are already educated on the concept and accept it as legitimate.  When you’re the first person to introduce the idea to someone outside the context of asexual discourse, it comes across as unnecessarily complicated/splitting hairs/trying to be “special” (when really, heck naw, I’d rather there were a lot more visible people like me so that I wouldn’t have to deal with this rigamarole).
  • Gray-asexual: easy to use as a description, not easy to introduce yourself as.
  • “Mostly asexual.” “Pretty much asexual.” “I kind of identify with asexuality.” “More asexual than anything else.” (accurate enough without mentioning additional Labels, the bane of the earth)

– Layers of unconscious, subconscious, conscious. Where is sexual attraction? When it’s buried at the bottom of the ocean, is hauling it up worth the effort? What about when it keeps slipping away before you can get a good look at it? What if trying to look at it makes it disappear?

Sexual attraction as a mythical creature that sometimes alights on your shoulder but fades away out of sight as soon as you turn your head to confirm that it’s there.  Sexual attraction as the shadow of a shark under the water, just a shade darker than the deep blue under your hull.  Sexual attraction as the shiny metallic helium balloon that floats up above the clouds and gets mistaken for a fellow airplane when it reflects the sunlight, because — Wait, what’s that?  Is it?  Is it?  No, it– Wait–  No, it isn’t.  But better fly around it anyway.

10 responses to “Re: Greyness 301

  • luvtheheaven

    I am NOT gray when it comes to my asexuality, but a lot of this discourse on greyness actually reflects my experiences around my romantic orientation or lack thereof really well. I’m a gray-romantic, although I don’t usually use the “gray” term but rather other terms (like WTFromantic, possibly Aro, etc. depending on the context). But it’s really cool to read about what the experiences are like for gray-asexuals and also to realize that a large portion of this applies to my experiences/feelings as a gray-romantic if you just swap out “sexual attraction” for the whole vague thing that is “romantic attraction”, etc.

    • acetheist

      Oh, yeah, good point. *goes to add a gray-rom tag to the post*

    • Ace in Translation

      I was just going to reply the exact same thing. I identify with bi, but my romantic experiences are not 100% alloromantic, but on the WTF-romantic side. Loads of what is written here applies to me as well with regards to romantic attraction.

  • queenieofaces

    I’m yet another greyro who identifies pretty strongly with a lot of this stuff, ESPECIALLY type as a statistical probability model.

    Also, have a ton of thoughts about disclosure, as someone who’s greyro and has dated a disproportionate number of wtfromantics. I guess my one hard and fast rule is that anytime anyone is like, “Haha, I just DON’T KNOW whether I’m attracted to you or not; maybe I am or MAYBE I’M NOT; maybe I love you or maybe I don’t!” I start edging away really fast, ’cause I’ve seen that used supremely manipulatively. I had a really unfortunate experience with someone who, 2 1/2 years into a relationship, would go through periods where they were like, “Eh, maybe I’m not actually romantically attracted to you. Maybe we’re not dating,” and then I would feel really crappy and insecure because MAYBE it was something I did and MAYBE I was forcing them into this relationship they didn’t want to be in and MAYBE I was in love with someone who didn’t love me back. Needless to say, it was not super great, and looking back there’s a lot of it that makes me wince and go, “Oh, yes, that was emotionally abusive, oh, yikes.” I’ve found that “I have feelings for you/about you but I don’t know how to classify them” feels a lot safer emotionally to me than “Am I attracted to you? I dunno! Check in tomorrow and maybe I’ll tell you!”

  • My “wtfromantic” identity label has become very significant to me… | From Fandom to Family: Sharing my many thoughts

    […] I read The Ace Theist’s post recently, “Re: Greyness 301″, and also the linked/heavily referenced original Greyness 301 post I left […]

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    […] What I wonder about, rather, is people who’ve been questioning for so long that they’ve given their questioning another name.  I wonder about [gif warning] the number of labels for frustration with trying to find a single label.  I wonder about gray-asexuality.  I wonder about the rom vs. aro divide for grayros.  I wonder about the gray experience in general, as shared by gray-aces and grayros. […]

  • queenieofaces

    Making a proper pingback: AO3 referrers are likely coming your way via this fic.

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