Ace of Spirals

This is a followup post to A Case for a Convergence-Divergence Spectrum, so if that terminology is new to you, start there.

Previously, I explained convergence and divergence as a gradient, a subjective judgement, and a matter of degree. For example, I’d map myself on the divergent end of the spectrum — with a narrow, specific orientation rather than more broadly-encompassing one. However, that also comes with a few caveats.

[Crossposted to Pillowfort. Preview image: Spiral Selfie by Howard Ignatius, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.]

Divergent Sexual Orientation

In Don’t Make Me Choose, I wrote about how the objectors’ term “split attraction model” both is and is not supposed to apply to me, as an ace without a romantic orientation who does differentiate between types of attraction. What I left out of that post, for simplicity’s sake, is using “sexual orientation” as a specifically-sexual orientation. For example, here’s this early 2015 post that refers to “the idea that sexuality refers only to sex” as “the split-attraction model” (while calling that homophobic). This is one of the things that the term “split attraction model” was created in objection to. Yet it has often been treated as synonymous with romantic orientation.

In some ways, I feel like I have the opposite problem to convergent aro aces who lament their multiplicity of labels. Identifying with a divergent sexual orientation alone can superficially look the same as identifying with that label in a convergent, composite way — even though that’s not the message I want. I’m “just” ace, but in a context where romantic orientation is treated as compulsory, I have to do extra verbal legwork just to designate the blank space of the romantic orientation that isn’t there. What I mind about that isn’t the number of words (y’all know me); the problem is that when even “quoiromantic” tends to get read as “on the aro spectrum,” I get grouped in as an “aro ace,” leaving my divergent experience indistinguishable from a convergent one.

This is something I otherwise have trouble articulating about identifying as “just” ace. My gray-asexual identity is specifically about sexuality. I do not have a romantic orientation to contrast it with. “Sexuality” is a concept that at least makes some intuitive sense to me, and while I foreground my alienation from it, it’s still at least a roughly identifiable thing in its own right. Sexuality and romance are non-parallel to me in that way. So the romantic-vs-sexual distinction is salient to how I conceptualize my identity even though romance, itself, is not.

What Even Is Romance, Anyway

With that said, my place on the divergent end of the spectrum deserves some caveats. Although the romantic-vs-sexual distinction is salient to how I identify, that’s not to say that I consider romance & sexuality to be completely “separate,” either. I share some of Aceadmiral’s perspective on “romance” as a concept:

The way I’ve come to think about “romance” is as a cluster property, which like the archetypal cluster property “health” has a hazy, word-cloud quality to its definition […] And unfortunately, one of the most prominent things in the word cloud of “romance” is “sex.”

This is why coming to an ace identity was what served to unmoor the concept for me. My view of romance is colored by my disidentifications with sexuality. It’s not that sexuality and romance are equivalent to me, though; it’s that my relationship to one is structured by the other.

Quoiro As An Ace Identity, But Not An Ace-Exclusive Identity

For me, this translates into thinking of quoiromanticism as something I arrived at through ace identity and made salient chiefly by being ace.

However, that does not mean I think of it as something only aces are allowed to identify with. Admittedly, I do find it surprising that there are folks actively identifying with the quoiro umbrella even outside of the ace one, but it’s the kind of surprise that begets curiosity. What makes this concept useful to them? Or the aromantic spectrum to allosexuals, for that matter? Here and there I’ve occasionally heard talk about polyamory/non-monogamy, but is that the main or only narrative? I wouldn’t know. It’s a subject that I don’t encounter many posts about.

In any case, I personally arrived at disidentification with romantic orientation via disidentifications with sexuality. I also identify with different prefixes by axis (quoi- and gray-) to emphasize a disjuncture between them, where one is a sexual orientation and the other is just a modifier. That’s easy to overlook, if you’re in the habit of thinking of “quoiromantic” as “on the aro spectrum” (and some quoiros are). But in my own case, as someone without an aro or alloromantic alignment, a specifically-sexual orientation is part of what I mean by identifying as a quoiro ace.

Icon of a spade with a spiral, representing quoi ace identity

11 responses to “Ace of Spirals

  • KaeS

    “What makes this concept useful to them?”

    At least for me, I find that almost all of the ways of discussing romantic attraction/orientation/relations end up heterocentric and ciscentric to different degrees. And that’s not only about emotional or sexual monogamy/exclusivity. It’s about a whole set of assumptions that don’t necessarily apply to how LGBTQ relationships work, including the idea that relationships can be classified or prioritized as romantic/platonic.

    So I like quoiromantic as a form of social negotiation, to say, “if you must slap me with a -romantic label, this is one that bothers me somewhat less than others.” I’d rather say that my relationship focus is currently queer4queer and trans4trans, and that includes multiple types of relationships that I generally refuse to put into a hierarchy.

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  • Blue Ice-Tea

    Ah! I felt confused after reading “A Case for a Convergence-Divergence Spectrum”. Specifically, it didn’t seem like I would have any place on it. I don’t really relate to the concept of romantic orientation (because what even is romance?) and it doesn’t make sense to me think of other forms of attachment in terms of “orientation” (because they’re not really “oriented” towards one group or another). So, without any orientation besides a sexual orientation, it didn’t seem like I could be “convergent” (experience my orientations as the same) or divergent (experience my orientations as different.)

    But, in this post, you claim a “divergent” identity based on experiences that sound a lot like mine. Even though you don’t have a romantic orientation, you relate to the concepts of romance and sexuality differently, and that makes you divergent, is that right? In that case, I would also qualify as divergent.

    That said, I think my relationship with romance is also complicated for me in a similar way as for you. What other people describe as “romance” seems to comprise elements of both sexuality and friendship. So, insofar as romance is sexuality, I’d be aromantic (or, I guess, demiromantic), but insofar as romance is friendship, I’d be very romantic, but wouldn’t think of romance as an orientation.

    And I’m still not sure I’d actually describe myself as on the “divergent” end of the spectrum, because, well, I have the same problem with the convergence-divergence spectrum as with the aro-alloro spectrum: it seems to assume that people do have orientations (romantic, etc.) other than sexual orientation. But I’m not interested in identifying with orientation for anything other than sexuality. I don’t want to say, “Being heterodemisexual is only about sexuality; I have different orientations for romance, friendship, etc.” because I don’t have different orientations for those. I don’t think of them in terms of orientation at all!

    In your previous post, you write:

    “We can use divergence to talk about a departure from [convergence], ex. because of identifying with multiple distinct orientations or identifying with a more narrow orientation.

    I’d mostly be in the “identifying with a more narrow orientation” crowd, rather than the “identifying with multiple distinct orientations” crowd, but your model doesn’t offer an easy way to distinguish them. Does it make sense to lump them together?

    • Coyote

      “But, in this post, you claim a ‘divergent’ identity based on experiences that sound a lot like mine. Even though you don’t have a romantic orientation, you relate to the concepts of romance and sexuality differently, and that makes you divergent, is that right?”

      Sort of.

      Part of the motive for coming up with this way of talking about the subject (a convergence-divergence spectrum) was to dispute the idea that all people can be grouped between [those with convergent romantisexual orientations] and [those with a separate romantic orientation and sexual orientation]. In my case, the way that I diverge from the former expectation is by having just one specifically-sexual orientation. So yes, the concept of “divergence” (as I’ve used it here) was meant to include aces like us.

      “Does it make sense to lump them together?”

      For my purposes here, yes, although that’s not to say that they are The Same Thing. It’s kind of like how identities like “heterosexual” and “bisexual” can be grouped as “sexual orientations,” but that doesn’t mean that they’re The Same Thing. That’s just a meta-category name.

      What divergence is useful for, in my book, is articulating a difference between me as a “just ace” ace (with one specifically-sexual orientation) and another “just ace” ace who identifies as asexual in a more convergent way.

      The idea is to improve on the rotten 2015 terminology of “SAM” and “non-SAM,” which is nasty for all sorts of reasons. One of the things “SAM” has been used to mean is “romantic orientation” — we can just revert back to saying “romantic orientation.” Another of the things “SAM” has been used to mean is “describing attraction in different types” — we can just spell that out as such. But another of the things “SAM” has been used to mean is any use of sexual orientation labels in a sexually-specific way, as contrasted with the composite way. So how do we disentangle all those?

      One of the things that Siggy brought up when I first started writing essays about all this in 2019 is that until this point, the ace community didn’t have any language for not personally making a romantic/sexual distinction. Most things that the term “the SAM” has been used to mean can easily be replaced by more direct preexisting language, except for this. So to further my project of dismantling the violence of the term “SAM,” I decided to give aro aces a different option — a way to talk about homogeneous romanticsexual identity and not-finding-romantic-vs-sexual-a-useful-idea without having to describe themselves as “non-split.”

      So yes, there can be convergent aces, divergent aces with romantic orientations, and divergent aces without romantic orientations, and that’s all completely compatible with the framework.

      • Blue Ice-Tea

        Okay, I see what you’re trying to do. Maybe I’m getting hung up on the language? It seems weird to use “divergence” to talk about the relationship between specifically sexual orientation and orientations I don’t even have. I’m sure you have reasons for choosing the words you did, but I’m wondering if a different word might capture the meaning you’re going for better. “Discreteness”, maybe?

      • Blue Ice-Tea

        “The relationship I’m talking about though (just to clarify) is the relationship to the composite view of orientation.”

        Oooooooooh! I didn’t understand that before.

        Although, if anything, it actually makes me like the term less. Because then it seems like you’re setting up a composite view of sexuality as the norm from which some people “diverge”, and… is it the norm? Also, there are so many norms people diverge from that using “divergence” in this way seems very imprecise.

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