Originally, my Genealogy of Queerplatonic (Part 1) was going to have multiple sections, but due to length I ended up cutting a lot of extra links I’d collected on other different-but-related concepts. I’m now sharing those links here, in their own post. In other words, even though this post mostly isn’t about the concept of “queerplatonic” by name, you can think of this post as a kind of Part 2.
Featured in this post: a set of smaller link compilations on relationship anarchy, platonic orientations, alterous attraction, and more.
[Note: This post has been crossposted to Pillowfort. Edited 4/28/19.]
Relationship hierarchies & anarchies
While I’m sure it wasn’t the first time such a concept had been discussed by aces at large, the first online recorded instance I’ve found of an ace using the term “relationship hierarchy” is in a Tumblr post by Captain Heartless: “Relationship Hierarchies, Part 1: What They Are.” Captain Heartless explicitly acknowledges that they themselves are not the first to put forth the idea, merely attempting to document an explanation of it, and proceeds by translating the “hierarchical valuation of sex acts” (as put forth by Gayle Rubin) to also apply to relationships, as well:
See, the way our society values relationships is generally teleological (look it up, its a fun word). Relationships are seen and valued according to whether or not they are developing towards a particular goal. I’d say that goal is usually seen as marriage, or something very close to it. […]
The point, however, is that progression in a relationship is seen as towards this goal. Relationships are then valued in how much they resemble the relationship at the top: a relationship that is almost exactly like marriage but without the ceremony is generally valued, but as you move further and further away, (and there are endless ways to not be like a stereotypical heterosexual marriage) the relationship is not valued.
The earliest online use of the term “relationship anarchy” I know of appeared in “The short instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy,” an essay first published in Swedish in 2006. It would later be published in English in 2012. This essay does not discuss asexuality or aromanticism at all. Instead, it more generally “questioned the idea that love is a limited resource that can only be real if restricted to a couple.” Accordingly, it ends on this note:
Relationship anarchy is not about never committing to anything – it’s about designing your own commitments with the people around you, and freeing them from norms dictating that certain types of commitments are a requirement for love to be real, or that some commitments like raising children or moving in together have to be driven by certain kinds of feelings. Start from scratch and be explicit about what kind of commitments you want to make with other people!
Although polyamory is not mentioned here by name, I generally get the impression that this framework was picked up by a lot of people who are polyamorous.
Swankivy wrote a post on being “Never #1.”
I must admit that I don’t really care to be someone’s Most Important Person, but I completely understand why other people would want someone like that in their lives.
But despite that, it does hurt–a lot–when people who knew me before they knew their partners suddenly disappear from my life because they’re paying attention to their partner and now they’re only interested in me a) if they can’t be with the partner or b) if they lose the partner. Like I was just something to do–something to fill the time until they got what they REALLY wanted (which is never me). And I think what may hurt more than the fact that I’m easily tossed aside is that the friends who do it to me AND the society we live in treat this situation like my feelings are inappropriate.
But – perhaps more importantly – this is also the year that WP blogger The Thinking Aro (at the time, The Thinking Asexual) introduced “Relationship Anarchy Basics” to the asexual and aromantic communities:
How can or does relationship anarchy apply to asexuals, aromantics, mixed orientation sexual people, and celibates? […]
Relationship anarchy should be important to the asexual community because it is the only method of relationships that removes sex as an indicator of relationship value, of a partner’s value, and as the line of separation between important, serious bonds and less important, casual bonds. Relationship anarchy should be important to aromantics because it is the only philosophy of love that strips romance of its supremacy and power, that creates the freedom for nonromantic companions to experience a deeper emotional intimacy and physical intimacy than what mere common friendship allows. […]
I think each Relationship Anarchist is going to be different, perform their version of RA uniquely, and probably come to RA for different reasons… But if I’m speaking for myself… I’ve always idealized gray-area friendships that take on a lot of the properties of normative romance, without actually including romantic attraction or sex.
A little later that year, Ace Admiral on Tumblr kicked off a conversation about commitment, which Jo at A Life Unexamined conveniently provided lots of links to the other parts of as she joined in with her own thoughts. In it, you’ll find some of the asexual elitism that TAT is now known for, but I bring up this conversation mainly because a commenter on Jo’s blog, Eponine, made the connection to relationship anarchy there.
On the AVEN forums one of the earliest instances I found of members using the phrase “relationship anarchy” occurred this year in this thread, where Kitty Spoon Train wrote:
My entire social life of the past ten years or so could be described in terms of [assumption that a relationship is sexual], just about. :lol:
Which is a major part of why I accepted Relationship Anarchy and don’t want to bother with predetermined definitions of relationships any more. It’s just too much effort for someone like me. Much easier to just take them as they come and define them on their own terms.
Relationship anarchy has been referenced there on the forums a few other times other than that, but for whatever reason, it appears that it was used only very rarely up until 2017, at which point it started getting used a little more frequently.
On Tumblr and WordPress, others were introducing critiques by 2014 – and here are just a few links on that. To start off, Captain Heartless wrote:
My understanding of relationship anarchy is more that it’s just not viewing relationships as competitive or ranked – it’s to avoid the idea that “I’m in X type of relationship with Y, so therefore I must think Y is inherently better than Z”.
One of the responses from Sciatrix included this:
I am all for people breaking down their individual hierarchies in the ways that work best for them! But “equality of all relationships” is not where I want to be, and neither is “no priority.” I like expectations to be very clear, and for me having a loose hierarchy in place helps to clarify these things before people start asking me for more than I can give.
And when asked, Anagnori shared an ambivalent perspective, contrasting relationship anarchy as a personal versus ideological approach to relationships:
I think the problem arises when a whole culture expects romance or sex to be valued over friendship. It is good and right that we break down amatonormativity, compulsory sexuality and the relationship hierarchy in general. But it is wrong to expect individual people to value all types of relationships equally in their private lives. To do so would only mean replacing one restrictive relationship paradigm with another.
There are several places where “relationship anarchy” popped up on Arocalypse in 2016. In “Internalized arophobia (and how to get rid of it),” Omitef wrote the following, citing The Thinking Aro:
I feel bad for rejecting anyone who I’ve had feelings for in the past (prior to their reciprocation), so I force myself into romantic relationships with them, trying to figure out ways to cut the relationship short before it gets a chance to turn super serious. Relationship anarchy has helped me a lot— I realize that I shouldn’t try to force my connections with people to fit into any mold, and that I should just let connections happen with the ebb and flow of feelings (both mine and theirs), without feeling the need to declare which types of feelings are more important than others.
There’s also this poll whose choices are no longer visible, but the posted replies make reference to relationship anarchy as part of the options. For more thorough discussion, see the thread “Relationship anarchy and aromanticism,” which places the concept in more direct focus, and the first post opens on this note:
Reading up on RA I feel I defiantly have alot of things in common here to identify as RA. I also feel RA in general have alot in common with aromanticism and QPR ex by refusing the amatonormative idea that romantic relationships have to be superior to platonic ones.
In fact, in this thread Aussiekirkland even announces her intention to host the Carnival of Aces next month.
Accordingly, you can find a lot more discussion of relationship anarchy over at the November Carnival of Aces Roundup. I won’t summarize each one individually here, but for the general picture – there were positive or mostly positive submissions from Lib, Kasey Weird, AussieKirkland, and there was also more ambivalent submissions by Sara K. (who finds it too vague), Rotten-zucchinis (who discusses the term losing its anarchist roots), and Demiandproud (who objects to “chaotic staticy fuzz”).
Nonetheless, relationship anarchy still has its adherents. It’s still been mentioned positively on AVEN and discussed on Arocalypse – for instance, in this thread, where “relationship anarchy” was contrasted against “dating,” which honestly I found surprising.
Platonic attraction, platonic orientations, & community norms
The AVEN thread introducing “squish,” created by Raisin, defines them like so:
I’ve been trying for a looong, loooong time how to describe the “crushes” I get on people. It was getting frustrating having to say “I got crushes on people, but they weren’t really crushes because blah blah, and so blah blah blah…….”
So I finally decided to just pick a word, and I’m calling them SQUISHES.
[…] When I got “crushes” on people in middle school and high school, I didn’t actually want to date them. There was just something about them that I liked. I wanted to get to know them better. I wanted to talk to them, just be around them. […]
I decided to use the word “squish” to describe these feelings, because they aren’t as intense as “crushes” or “smashes“. Like I said, I just have a desire to talk to the person and be friends with them.
This comic about types of attraction has been called an “unsung hero of the crystallization of ace concepts” by Siggy, and I’m inclined to agree with him. In it, a “squish” is defined as “an aromantic crush, a desire for a strong platonic relationship with someone” — as contrasted with sexual attraction, romantic attraction, crushes, sensual attraction, and aesthetic attraction.
A few days before that, actually, Mr. Shuttershy on AVEN introduced the term “aplatonic,” with an explanation that includes the following:
If the aromantics are to be believed, platonic love is a type of /love/, and a love that is not to be under-estimated. It runs deeps and means a lot.
I have never had that.
So, don’t get me wrong, I have friends and care about them; but love is a powerful word, and one I cannot apply to them.
I’ve theorized its because my parents were abusive, so I never learned how to love those I don’t feel romantically for; bur how would one even change that? I’m an adult now, and I don’t know if I can learn to have feeöings for friends.
That’s where the title comes in.
I was just wondering if anyone has shared my experience? Do you think aplatonic can exist? Its not that I don’t want to bond, but I just feel so indifferent. I’m not neccesarily looking for a label, but I’m more looking for others who share this experience. I feel empty to feel as I do.
Note that, interestingly enough, this first usage of “aplatonic” comes from an ace who identifies as homoromantic, not aromantic.
While I don’t know how far back beyond this it may stretch, I know that at least by this year, aros were talking about community norms and an overwrought focus on even platonic love. For instance, see this post by beranyth – a pretty short post, but I’ll quote some of it here:
For all the talk that goes on about how aromantic people can have strong relationships too, and that platonic relationships don’t automatically fall a tier below romantic relationships
it does not make you any less if you are an aromantic person who does not have that/is not interested in those relationships
This post on a thread on discovering asexuality is the earliest instance I could find of “platonic attraction” on AVEN, oddly enough – and I have the sense that there’s some further discussion here I’m missing, since I figure there had to be more precedent for the coinage of “aplatonic” [edit: see also this 2009 AVEN post about “heteroplatonic”].
Over on Arocalypse, the earliest discussion I’ve found on these topics are the threads “Crush vs Squish,” “Genders and platonic attraction?” and “Platonic Orientations?” – the latter two of which demonstrate aros beginning to conceptualize platonic attraction in line with the language of its own “orientation.” In fact, the latter of those three, the thread started by ArodynamicallyFavored, even starts off with “I know I’ve seen a fair amount of people describe themselves as ‘aplatonic’ and so on.” This is interesting to me because I’m getting the impression that “aplatonic” may have come first, so to speak, and that other platonic orientation terms may have developed mostly around or in response to that one, rather than any other platonic orientation terms being in use before 2012.
On Tumblr, Laura published A Contrarian View on Platonic Attraction, explaining why the term and the concept are not useful to her.
There was also a small kerfluffle happening on Tumblr at this time over a different term, which prompted Vesper to offer this explanation of platonic attraction:
it’s due to platonic love being constantly equated with “just” friendship by society at large that friendship is all most people think of when they see or hear the word “platonic”… so when someone who is unfamiliar with the term “platonic attraction” or its usage within the aromantic community random comes across it, they read it as meaning who one is attracted to in terms of friendship even though that’s not what many aro people have used and still use the term to mean. many use “platonic attraction” to describe something that is different from what they feel towards their friends. […]
platonic attraction: feeling drawn to someone in a way that makes you desire familiarity with them. sometimes involving emotional intimacy, while at the same time not necessarily sexual or anything else.
There’s not a whole lot I’ve recovered on this topic, so we’ll skip to the present, where the same intracommunity concerns remain. For instance, see Shell’s post, which is “specifically about the aro community’s tendency to go ‘We can still love! Just not romantically!’”
There’s still threads on how exactly to distinguish romantic attraction from feelings of friendship, also called platonic attraction, happening on Arocalypse.
Alterous attraction, soft romo, waverships, & appromour
The earliest post I can find on “soft romo” is a Tumblr post explaining it by Viola at the Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week blog. They offer some examples in between these two definitions:
A soft-romo relationship is like a low-level romantic relationship. Sometimes, arospec people (especially aroflux and lithromantic) may want to have a romantic relationship with someone instead of a QPR. […] a soft-romo relationship is somewhere in between of a QPR and a romantic relationship. One may want to have a soft-romo relationship because their mental illness prevents them from acting romantic too often, to please their allo partner, to make it more comfortable when their attraction fluctuates, etc.
Note that the ask message indicates this was not their first use of the word, but the tags do indicate that Viola is the user it originated with, initially “as a joke.”
Subsequently, it also appeared on AVEN with a different definition:
Soft Romo – Low level romance/romantic attraction/crush/etc
2015 also appears to be the year that “alterous” originated, although I cannot track down the original post due to Tumblr ephemerality. The earliest I’ve found so far is this submission to ASAW from someone claiming to be the coiner:
alterous – experiences attraction that can only be described as a desire for emotional closeness because neither romantic or platonic attraction is accurate
is intended to be used in place of romantic or platonic. for example someone may identify as bi-alterous, poly-alterous, homo-alterous, etc.
By the next year, people were making alterous-themed Tumblr blogs. One of these was Alterous-albatross, which put up this “Quick FAQ” that says this:
What is Alterous Attraction?
Alterous attraction is a type of attraction which cannot be described as entirely romantic or platonic. It is described as a desire for emotional closeness.
What is Alterous Orientation?
Much like sexual and romantic orientation, alterous orientation is defined by whom you have the attraction towards. This being the case, the same prefixes apply.
Vesper expressed mixed feelings about how the concept of alterous was being discussed, and here’s an excerpt of what they wrote about that:
up until this point, i feel like many people within the aro community have been talking about & working towards awareness of the exact type of attraction that is being described now as alterous, however people have already been using “platonic (or emotional) attraction” to mean what alterous means for years. i feel like a notable chunk of aro awareness efforts have been about combating the “platonic” = “just friends” normative assumptions enforced by society, but now i see various posts aimed at alterous awareness pretty much supporting that very idea by positioning alterous attraction on a binary spectrum between platonic and romantic attraction, where alterous attraction is a step above platonic attraction, often with the consequences of equating platonic attraction with “just” friendship.
Lots of people have responded, a fact which I’m able to determine only because of Vesper’s meticulous tagging system — allowing me to unearth further context I would be lost on otherwise because Tumblr as a platform hates threading conversations.
One of the first responses was from Gaby, and in their own reply to them, Vesper held their ground:
it is undeniable that the term and concept of “platonic attraction” played a part in furthering discussion of types of attraction that aren’t friendship but also aren’t romantic or even platonic, depending on your definition, and that in turn has played a part in the very coinage of “alterous attraction”. regardless of whether you see the platonic and alterous as two types of attraction which are inherently different, usage of “platonic attractions” to describe what alterous attraction also describes is a part of the history of aro discourse that some people are still tied to and it feels like you (ie. ppl who use alterous) are ignoring the meaning/significance that that term holds for some people every time you (again, not you specifically) describe alterous attraction as being “a desire for emotional closeness without romance”, the very description of @alterousasteroid‘s blog for example, as if that doesn’t also describe platonic attraction for many people. every time you describe alterous as being “…more than platonic… Like on a scale of platonic to romantic it would be somewhere in the middle”, which obviously presents platonic is a lesser (’less’ is literally the antonym of ‘more’) type of attraction on the “scale” of attraction. etc etc etc, again, see my original post for further illustration with links.
There were also some replies from people who do personally use the concept of “alterous.” One of them agreed with Vesper’s criticisms. A couple of others described why they personally identified with the term, such as this response from Universalmage – and to quote just as snippet:
I’ve previously used both and don’t necessarily see much difference, but it’s very confusing. The person I feel the most attraction to is, in fact, only a friend; we do not have a qpr. So I switched to alterous to acknowledge that I felt the attraction but also that I did not necessarily understand where that attraction lies.
Another anonymous individual who uses it gave a different reason:
i’m aromantic and i use alterous as an identity and a form of attraction because identifying as panplatonic e.g. is looked down upon a Lot in the community. it’s the special-snowflake-mogai-tumblr-a-spec-uwu kind of stuff that non a-spec people demonize and it makes me feel icky to identify as such but i still want to express my identity? so i use alterous
Also as a part of the same conversation, Strange-nameless-creature asked:
Are quasiplatonic and alterous relationships two words for the same thing?
If Alterous=quasi/queerplatonic, then I think that alterous will ultimately fall into disuse, because this is the type of relationship (I think) people are trying to define with these terms.
Platonic attraction is a concept that people are already familiar with, at least on a basic level, and it’ll probably be easier to expand the definition of platonic attraction than introduce people to another type of similar attraction and convince them to accept that definition on a large scale; it just seems unnecessary.
Alternatively, if a distinction is made between alterous and quasiplatonic relationships, then we need to go back to the first question; are quasiplatonic and alterous relationships defined by different types of attraction, or different degrees of the same type of attraction?
And, lastly, you also had Alterousasteroid chiming in with this:
the biggest difference between alterous and platonic is platonic goes for people you really do just see as friends, while alterous is meant for people you see as more than just friends but you don’t look at them in a romantic sense
…which, as Vesper indicated, was missing the point of their original criticism.
Over on Arocalypse, a couple of 2017 threads mention alterous attraction. First off, there’s “Alterous attraction?” in which Omitef describes the experience, including a note about how it compares to queerplatonic:
I’ve only experienced alterous attraction once and it was kind of it’s own category of attraction–neither purely romantic, nor purely platonic. It’s violent, intense, and at least for me, impossible to contain within any relationship framework. I used to be “friends” with this girl–we were alterously attracted to each other–and we just had a really emotionally intense relationship, that seemed to defy any labels, platonic or romantic. We were close, but we weren’t dating, we weren’t queerplatonic friends–we weren’t making an effort to be exclusive with each other in any way. We just let ourselves connect messily, without labels.
For me, alterous attraction is similar to queerplatonic attraction, except without the desire to be in a queerplatonic friendship with the person.
It also came up in a separate thread in which Hodges2 asks, “Is there a name for Queer platonic attraction/desire? Is it just called alterous attraction or is that something different?”
Ice Queen answered:
Yes, I think so. As far as I understood, “alterous” is a term describing feelings which are not exactly platonic, as in they are more than normal friendship, yet not romanitc in nature.
And Magni answered:
I’ve recently seen the term queerplatonic attraction being used as its own form of attraction. For me, I would consider it a mix of platonic, alterous, and sensual. I have a queerplatonic squish on this one friend of mine, and basically I really get excited about seeing/talking to her and when I do see her, I really want to hug and cuddle her a lot. Hope this helps!
Note that, for reference, the very first documented use of queerplatonic was in the context of saying “I kind of like queerplatonic as a definer for the attraction I feel to my zucchini.”
The year 2018 is when a Tumblr user with no apparent alias published a post entitled “new term: wavership,” introducing the following definition:
a wavership is a relationship that changes between different kinds of relationships. it can be romantic one day, a qpr the next day, a platonic bond of some kind another day, soft romo another day, something else another day! it could also be use when you don’t know what kind of relationship you have with someone, but you know it’s a partnership of some kind.
The same person seems to have been the one to introduce “fluitic attraction,” and the oldest post in their #fluitic tag is a response to this anonymous message, but via Amethsystem’s Pillowfort repost I was able to be redirected back to this post, where the blogger introduces a horizontally striped flag and suggests “fluitic” as a name for a type of attraction, relationship, and personal identity for experiencing “wavership specific attraction.” It’s only in that later response to an ask message, though, that they say this:
Fluitic itself isn’t necessarily a new form of attraction, because it’s the fluxuation/fluidity between other attractions (like going from romantic and sexual to platonic and sensual, for example).
Back on the subject of alterous, another post on that subject is this one, where Lav wrote:
Alterous attraction is described as that gray area in-between romantic and platonic whereit all kind of mixes together and can’t be defined by saying they are either strictly romantic or platonic feelings. Since feeling alterous attraction lacks distinctive romantic feelings, it leads you to base a relationship more on deep emotional connection, commitment, and investment than anything else.
A few months later this same year, Aromantic Rey proposed the following term, explicitly in contrast to alterous:
Exteramo attraction: A type of attraction that is neither platonic or romantic. An attraction that is not in between platonic and romantic, but rather exists outside of platonic and romantic attraction.
“Isn’t that just alterous attraction?” No, alterous attraction comes with the implication of being in between platonic and romantic attraction, or partially romantic or platonic, while exteramo is off the spectrum entirely.
On a different tack, this was also the year that I first encountered “appromour,” in this post by PrixelPrattleXP entitled “Not quite QPP, but not exactly Romantic = Appromour.”
Appromour describes a relationship or partner in which you have relationship that is not romantic, it *may* not quite fit into you “typical” idea of qpp either as well. Its a way to describe a relationship that *may* seem like a romantic relationship to yourself or even outside observers. It looks like and may be very close to a romantic relationship but decidedly still not romantic.
Is there a takeaway here?
I have my thoughts on almost all of these, but individually, if these were just one-off posts unconnected to anything, I think I would have a lot less reason to offer my own say on the matter – and anything I said might not feel important to anyone but the specific individuals involved. Yet when these disparate perspectives and coinage efforts are gathered together in this way, I think it’s possible to see some overall patterns emerge (or still emerging), and it could be that those patterns are themselves worth responding to, even irrespective of the particulars.
I’ve been thinking about these issues a fair bit over the past few days, but my thoughts have been spinning in several different directions, and this post is already too long. So instead of offering a conclusion just yet, I instead want to ask, what do you take from all this?