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The Wordsmith's Forge - Nonsexual Intimacies (Part 2 of 5)
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Nonsexual Intimacies (Part 2 of 5)
This is the second part of a series on nonsexual intimacies that I'm posting for Asexual Awareness Week.  Read Part 1Part 3Part 4Part 5.


Emotional & Psychological Closeness

Whereas sex creates a physical basis for intimacy, other actions can create an emotional and psychological basis. Some of these typically appear near the beginning of a relationship, to deepen it, while others appear later to demonstrate how close the two people have already come. Emotional and psychological connections are particularly helpful for restoring a damaged relationship.

Sharing secrets. This especially applies to talking about personal issues that aren't widely known. An exchange of secrets is a common ritual between "best friends" among girls and women, but appears elsewhere as well. Some things are only discussed among people with a common reference; veterans may be more comfortable discussing war memories with each other than civilians.

Ordering for someone in a restaurant. Acquiring food, without asking the other person what to get, shows a knowledge of their needs and desires. Providing food is also a gesture of support and sustenance.

Providing moral support at a major event. Helping someone get through a funeral, a trial, or other intense but not crisis situation is usually performed by a very dear friend. This is a situation where lovers or family members may be too close to the matter to be much use.

Crying on someone. When you cry, you tend to let your guard down. Most of the people close to you will see you cry at some point, so that can be a milestone in a relationship. Actually crying on someone, letting them hold you, is even more intimate.

Serving in a primary role for someone during a wedding. This includes the best man or maid of honor at a wedding, or stand-in for absent parents, etc. as well as the traditional family roles. One aspect of intimacy is sharing each other's lives, including ceremonies and transitions.

Comforting someone after a bad breakup. Moments of great vulnerability can bring people closer. While this role sometimes falls to family, breakup repair more often goes to a woman's female friends or a man's male friends.

Gazing into each other's eyes. Sustained eye contact is one of the best ways to make a conscious connection between people, hence the saying, "The eyes are the windows of the soul." It happens most often between lovers, or parent and child, but can be used for any kind of partner bonding.

Listening to someone's heartbeat or breathing. Close body contact, enough to carry soft personal sounds, tends to be comforting as well as connecting, as it touches on positive childhood memories for most people. It is shared between parent and child, sometimes between siblings, and later between lovers. Tight nonsexual partners may also do this.

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Comments
westrider From: westrider Date: October 26th, 2011 12:42 am (UTC) (Link)
A lot of these really click for me. I have trouble with physical contact, so much of the first list didn't hit home, but there are a bunch of things on here that I love to see.

There's one particular friendship I'm thinking of that's felt more intimate than any romantic relationship I've ever been in, and about half of this list are big parts of why that is.

Had another similar experience on a smaller scale after I told a veteran friend about what it was like to be with my stepdad when he died. After that conversation, he opened up a lot more about stuff he'd been through over in Iraq. Neither of us managed to be terribly articulate during that conversation, but it still created a connection between us that's like nothing else I've ever known.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 26th, 2011 01:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>A lot of these really click for me.<<

I'm glad to hear that.

>> I have trouble with physical contact, so much of the first list didn't hit home, but there are a bunch of things on here that I love to see.<<

The different categories have really different items in them. They span physical, emotional, psychological, and other areas of connection. I think that's important to remember.

>>There's one particular friendship I'm thinking of that's felt more intimate than any romantic relationship I've ever been in, and about half of this list are big parts of why that is.<<

Sooth. Sometimes a friendship is a primary relationship. I think you'll find more points that you recognize in later installments this week.

>>Had another similar experience on a smaller scale after I told a veteran friend about what it was like to be with my stepdad when he died. After that conversation, he opened up a lot more about stuff he'd been through over in Iraq. <<

Common ground is what you make of it, wherever you find it. I've startled a number of veterans with some of my stances on issues, or awarenesses of different concepts. It can make for interesting conversations.

>>Neither of us managed to be terribly articulate during that conversation, but it still created a connection between us that's like nothing else I've ever known.<<

Some things are said without being spoken.

If you haven't already seen it, one of the stories that kajones_writing created from my prompts this week is about Death and a veteran meeting on Fireworks Night:
http://kajones-writing.livejournal.com/37323.html
ankewehner From: ankewehner Date: October 29th, 2011 08:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Another one came to mind that seems to fit best with this entry: Coming up with (an/or organising) a surprise for someone, and said someone likes it.
(Or conversely, realising that the target is not the kind of person who'd like, say, having everyone pretend they fotgot their birthday until they spring a surprise party.)

This is a great series. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 29th, 2011 07:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Those are good ideas too, thanks. I'm glad you like the series!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 31st, 2011 03:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Those are good ideas.
fuocotanzer From: fuocotanzer Date: November 24th, 2011 08:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi! I feel kinda like a snoop to comment on this, but I was a little confused by "serving in a primary role for someone during a wedding". I do see how that's a sign of trust, yes. But I am confused. You're discussing asexuality, and if someone is getting married, then clearly you are not in a relationship with them? So are you talking about non-sexual intimacies in friendships and among family members, as well as asexual relationships?

I don't mean to offend, I am simply confused.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 24th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

This series covers many types of nonsexual relationship dynamics: sibling, parent/child, work partnership, domestic partnership, friendship, etc. There are nonsexual intimacies among both asexual and sexual partners. If you look at the entries, you'll notice that some of them discuss which types of relationship that intimacy most often appears in.

For adult asexuals forming a primary relationship, these types of nonsexual intimacy are likely to form a prevailing mode of bonding, whereas in a sexual relationship they're usually secondary to sex as a bonding mode. Certain other types of relationship are nonsexual in nature but may create extremely close bonds between sexual people -- serving in the same military unit, for instance. So the significance of the activity, as well as the type of relationship, can vary.

Considering the marriage example in particular: the main roles traditionally belong to relatives or close friends of the bride and groom. An asexual person with a tight nonromantic relationship to a sexual person might well serve as best man or maid of honor when their sexual friend gets married. Bear in mind, though, that not all marriages are exclusive; it's perfectly possible for a sexual couple and their asexual third to marry, according to various religions. The fact that the American government only allows one man/one woman marriages (and grudgingly, same-sex marriages in some areas) doesn't prevent it from happening, just leaves it outside of legal recognition. But getting married TO someone is a different type of intimacy than propping them up while they marry someone else.

Does this help to clarify?
fuocotanzer From: fuocotanzer Date: November 27th, 2011 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

It does, thanks!
treia24 From: treia24 Date: October 29th, 2013 01:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Not necessarily. Some people are in polyamorous relationships, wherein marriage does not negate the possibility of other romantic relationships.
For instance, I'm going to be one of the bridal attendants in my wife's wedding in a couple months.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 29th, 2013 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

There are many forms of relationships. Some are exclusive, others not. Some are sexual and/or romantic, others not. Some forms of intimacy usually occur between sexual/romantic partners, some among other relatives, and some with any close relationship. So it varies, what kind of nonsexual intimacies people may share.
cheriola From: cheriola Date: January 7th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
How about breaking social conventions and levels of politeness? For example, how close do you have to be to stop answering in platitudes when someone asks "How are you?" How close do you have to be to tell a guy that you're menstruating, instead of "not feeling well"? When do you stop telling white lies about people's looks? When do you start again, because you care more about their feelings than about giving them the truth?

Reading to someone can be quite intimate, too, because it's something normally done only for small children or the infirm.

Or drawing someone. (Not necessarily naked. Simply because of the prolonged close scrutiny and the way the artist's general view of the model is bared.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 9th, 2012 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>>How about breaking social conventions and levels of politeness? <<

Those are good questions about when and how to change what you're doing.

>>Reading to someone can be quite intimate, too, because it's something normally done only for small children or the infirm. <<

Sometimes courting couples do it, and some families have a tradition of reading certain things on special occasions. Those are intimate examples also.

>>Or drawing someone. (Not necessarily naked. Simply because of the prolonged close scrutiny and the way the artist's general view of the model is bared.)<<

Some cultures believe that drawing someone captures a piece of their spirit.
treia24 From: treia24 Date: October 29th, 2013 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I have mixed feelings about the ordering in restaurants one.

Like, that can be really sweet, especially if it has been previously discussed whether it's okay to do that.

But, it can also be really controlling and creepy. Or somewhat infantalizing and dismissive. Which, in a work of fiction, can be interesting to play with of course. As can any dynamic where you show that somebody is creepy by having them do intimate things inappropriately.

But I feel like, of the things listed here, this one is especially problematic since it's something that a lot of people are actually never okay with a partner doing.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 29th, 2013 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

Intimacy is closely connected with boundaries. These actions are things that help indicate where a person is in relation to another person. People draw lines in different places, and may put certain actions in different rings of intimacy.

Another boundary map is the division between things that are always, sometimes, or never okay. This also varies among people.

Trespassing boundaries against someone's will isn't intimacy, it's violation. It doesn't matter so much what the action is, as whether the people involved are all comfortable with it. If one person is crossing a line that the other person doesn't want them to cross, that's not okay -- even if it's something as casual as a handshake. If everyone is okay with it, then it's fine, even if it involves really deep contact.

>> As can any dynamic where you show that somebody is creepy by having them do intimate things inappropriately. <<

Yes. One of my favorite examples of such creepiness was in "Heroes" where they had a villain with healing powers. He just hauled off and erased someone's disability, not only without asking, but without even mentioning it. Went by in a split second, so a lot of viewers wouldn't even realize how violating it was. But to someone familiar with magical ethics and disability rights, ZOMGWTFBBQ somebody please kill this creep now. I honestly found him creepier than the serial killer.
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