on being arcflux

While I can’t directly respond to the call for more sharing on the subject of sex-favorable asexuality, Talia’s post reminded me that I don’t think I’ve seen many essay-style posts on personal experiences of being arcflux, at least not lately, so that’s what this’ll be.  My goals here:

  • a handy post for linking if I want to use this term & preempt “what’s that mean?”
  • introspection, sorting things out in words, public talking to myself (because others may get something out of it)
  • articulate why I’m drawn to this word & what I mean by it

(cn: abstract/hypothetical talk of sex)

Cor introduced me to the term “arcflux” in early February of this year.  It was coined by the founder of ARC Resources, and you can read more about the origins here, where Kisten Sadi lays out the following definitions:

arcsexuality: the general term for a person who feels averse, repulsed, or conflicted towards sex
arcflux: your arc feelings fluctuate for whatever reason.

Because of that, I take “arcflux” to be a term that can apply to a set of experiences that are all over the map.  Repulsed, indifferent, interested, disinterested, desirous, averse — any significant-to-the-individual fluctuation between some or all of these states.

For me, terms like “sex aversion” are personally relevant, but I don’t ID as “sex-averse, period” (or any other label in common usage) because, for me, being sex-repulsed, sex-indifferent, and sex-favorable feel like contextual moods or reactions rather than a fixed, consistent identity.  Rhetorically and socially, “sex-repulsed” is the label that resonates with me most (out of the canon three) because of how often being too-grossed-out-by-sex has, one way or another, hobbled or ended or prevented positive relationships with the people around me (for example: this kid, this kid, this kid, and this kid, just to name a few; don’t even get me started on the time I got lectured for not wanting to play a sexual innuendo game).  On the other hand, when given other options, I don’t claim an identity as “a sex-repulsed ace” because I associate “sex-repulsed,” as an identity label, with the sentiment of “sex for me is a no, forever and always, and that’s that.”  And maybe there are sex-repulsed folks for whom that sentiment doesn’t apply, I guess, but for me, it’s a reason to hesitate.

Because I have, actually, experienced feeling “sex-favorable” & empathized with sexual desire.  And at this point here, I don’t really see a need to go into what that entails because… my expectation is that you’ve heard those sentiments before, and you don’t need to hear them again to know what I’m talking about.  My impulse instead to say, as a word of reassurance, if you’ve never related to that concept before: god, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  Why do people talk like it’s so imperative?  I mean, it’s not bad, either, and positive experiences can come out of it, but man.  I could live without it.

So sometimes I may “get” the appeal of partnered sex, on a personal level, but that feeling’s not a fixed thing integral to my identity or that I can rely on to be stable enough to broaden my prospects for relationships.  The whole thing feels kinda weird, and I’m not attached to it.  But it’s still there.

There’s only one thing about it I can think of that might be anomalous when held up next to “typical” (???) sexual interest.  When the switch is on, I can find appeal in some of… what I’ll call the auxillary elements of sex (which I won’t get into the details of because! I want to be able to read this post later without repulsing myself!) & recognize those things as hot.  But the whole, uh, supposedly defining element of what makes sex “sex”?  As in, some type of genital interaction, by most folks’ definition?  Seems… irrelevant.

Let’s just say I’ve heard a lot of people don’t feel the same way.

Still, if I felt that general, abstract appeal consistently (contingent on the right circumstances), I can imagine having no need for a label like arcflux.  Feeling sometimes “hmm, maybe, yeah, sounds nice” about sex isn’t something I’d feel could fit alongside describing myself as a sex-repulsed ace.

But if it were as simple as that, and if those reactions had permanence, I wouldn’t have poured so much time into writing about my experiences of sex aversion.  I wouldn’t have compared sex to body horror, or compared talking about sex to talking about pooping, or compared hearing about sex to hearing about other creepy scenarios.  I wouldn’t have written this emotionally-intense post or experienced an actual panic attack that affected me for three full days all thanks to some fictional characters forming a sexual relationship.  My sex aversion doesn’t always manifest itself, but when it does, it can strike with a vengeance, and god, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

There’s value in having a word to convey “one single pattern does not apply here.”  When people are positioning themselves or others as sex-averse aces, sex-indifferent aces, etc., I want to have access to the same kind of shorthand.  The concept of flux, and change, and instability — especially connected to “arc” (averse, repulsed, conflicted) as the prefix — feels suited to me.  Like it was made for me.

It’s a little odd to think about the fact that it wasn’t.  That it wasn’t coined just by and for me, and that there could be others wanting to articulate the same idea.

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12 responses to “on being arcflux

  • epochryphal

    I love this post. And all the metaphors I can think for expressing that fondness are romance/sex, aaaaaahahaha.

    I love that you say “man, I could live without it” about Both repulsion and desirous-whatever-wordage. Helllll yes.

    And I super agree that “flux” is so useful. I’ve considered adopting the “conflicted” part of arc, because yeah thaaaat’s pretty constant…but flux just feels more encompassing? Especially because there are times when it’s not a conflict, it’s pure “wow I feel x how could I have ever felt y.” (And it rebounds so hard.)

    It’s interesting to compare/contrast with how greyness feels to me. Like, grey is less fluxy more stable, but they both are about communicating “hey it’s complicated and weird and this axis is inconsistent.” I do like having attraction separated out from “Feelings About Sex” in THIS way, despite hating the “repulsed indifferent or favorable?” sorting hat. Ahh, compulsory categories, I will outfox you yet….

    (how do i reblog on wordpress…)

    • Coyote

      ^^
      Funny, I actually thought about deleting both those lines, so thanks for the reassurance. And yeah, I happen to feel that same distinction where my gray-asexuality is similar but way less… flux.
      (I think there’s a reblog button up on the top ribbon to the left)

  • Hezekiah the (meta)pianycist

    Arcsexuality and arcflux are such useful terms and I wish I had heard of them sooner. I relate so much!!

  • Kaitlyn

    This is a really fantastic piece. I veer so often between complete indifference/disinclination (most of the time), sex-favorable, and random, intense sex-repulsion and I’ve never seen anyone before now talk about how much those things can flux. I’ve been kinda frustrated with the “there are three kinds of asexuals” stuff going around on tumblr because I can be all three of those kinds on the same day given the right circumstances. So thanks for posting this, I really really loved it.

  • Re: Greyness 301 | The Ace Theist

    […] 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!] […]

  • Alice

    Wow, I really identify with what you wrote here. Even though every time anything about sex (beyond just the word/nonspecific jokes) is brought up when I’m with other people, I feel quite uncomfortable and sex repulsed, sometimes, just sometimes, when I’m alone and it’s all in the realm of fantasy/imagination, I kind of… get it. But I definitely won’t want to have actual partnered sex any time soon. I mean just last week I started feeling ill just because I found out two of my friends are now in a sexual relationship.

    But this post helped me sort out my feelings a little bit so thank you for that.

    • Coyote

      “I mean just last week I started feeling ill just because I found out two of my friends are now in a sexual relationship.”

      I can relate to this too, unfortunately.

      But anyway, I’m glad the post helped you!

  • An Asexual Perspective on the play IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT (Part 3) | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

    […] too, and it took a while for her to become sexually attracted to Raul, or maybe Evie is actually arcflux, or maybe … I could keep going, but considering the lack of context which supports such […]

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