port-man-toes: the aroace - queercrip - transmad - neuroqueer erotics of digital collaboration

S. Cavar + ulysses/constance bougie


ace doubt / ace desire

I broke up with my first/last/only girlfriend with a letter, and this document suddenly reminds me of the things she and I wrote to and with each other. The more I put my thoughts into words and then shared (some of) them with her, the further we split, it felt like, even as I felt like I was being more and more open with her with each essay, letter, list. The poems I wrote for her feel opposite to those things—she asked me to write about and to her, wanting us to be a literary couple, wanting to be a muse and the subject of poetry. When I write essays or letters, I'm trying to be as accurate as possible, to put messy feelings into words in shitty attempts to capture them; when I write poems, I'm trying to sound good, to make things interesting. I take on a character version of myself, writing how actors look to me when onstage, exaggerated in expression. It interests me that the beginning of our relationship was all poems I wrote to, about, and for her, letters I wrote while studying abroad for 10 days and didn't give her until I'd returned home. Did she ever respond positively to any of my nonfiction, even the fiction I wrote? I usually just think about her saying my jokes weren't funny. In the narrative of her that I've built up to frame our memories, her lack of humor is metonymy or synecdoche, the cover of our/my novel/album/chapbook/? about us/her/me.

Are many relationships like that? The more we talk, the more we articulate the gulf between us? There's nothing wrong, necessarily, with a gulf.

I'm a people-pleaser, I think—which isn't to say that I regularly succeed at doing so. I read that Cavar wasn't in the mood to talk with me last week, and I worry, wonder if this is the beginning of the end. Is articulating that nervousness here expanding a crack? My first girlfriend talked frequently about manipulation—is that was expressing my anxiety is? Is it just being honest? Is it necessary? How do I avoid ever hurting anyone, ever making others feel bad, whatever "bad" means? (Is that what I've been trying to do, why I'm still working on getting close with others, whatever "close" means?) I don't feel bad about my grating eating and sneezing—I've hated sounds and movements like that in other people, too, and I can eat before or after Cavar and I next talk (or, at the very least, eat something quieter than salad with croutons). I feel stuck on what I wrote about genitalia and coupledom, though. An hour after I wrote it, I felt less squeamish; a week later, I feel ambivalent. I consider that it'd be interesting to do an exercise where I drew or painted the bits I fear, end up wandering Google for images of testicles. It'd help a lot, I think, if I could picture them as anything but those of my last sexual partner—the body parts of many people, not just one.

I come across a page on Planned Parenthood illustrating penises (penii?) and testicles, and I look at them, feel fine: I dig their look. I think without squeamishness that it's interesting how these drawings differ from street art, where balls are always so much smaller than the dick itself. I'd always thought of those dicks as the norm, perhaps four-inch penises with testicles slightly smaller than golf balls. Are the balls in dick doodles only small in proportion, a few inches long themselves but tiny in comparison to a much larger dick? Why do the things we call phallic usually lack sizable balls? Are they forgotten? Is that a thing? Do we need to talk more, in some places, about how they feel pleasure in addition to pain?

Simply drawn depictions of two penises, one circumcised and one not, taken from Planned Parenthood's page 'Are my penis and testicles normal?'
Note. Copyright 2023 by Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc.

Dicks, I suppose, I can sympathize with, or whatever the right word there might be: My own clitoris, or dick, or whatever, grew larger on testosterone; after I've masturbated, it sticks out, erect in its own way. Maybe balls feel a little like breasts in their dangling?

This is all naive musing, I suppose, from someone who's only seen and touched one pair of dick and balls numerous times, and always in the dark. Is this all common knowledge? Is it relevant here? It feels like a far cry from crip time or scholarly coupledom. I think I might try the drawings, though. (And even then—am I avoiding the things themselves by only sharing a drawing above? Drawing them myself, from images, feels less circumventive, at least.)

It occurs to me that common knowledge is itself an abled, allocisheteronormative construct. A friend assumed I knew already that mushrooms, when a little off, tasted distinctly like semen. I wouldn't know. Am I treated in this life as though I know bad mushrooms taste like semen, because I am perceived to be a girl, an allocishet one, an adult and thus a non-virgin? / sdjsdk didn't know this either lolol

Is any of this normal? (I'm not sure normal exists at all.) Do most couples get annoyed at each other on occasion? Do they break up immediately? Do they want to? Is the thing to talk those things through at length or to forget about them, put no or less stock in them? Is it up to us? Does anyone know how relationships work at all? Is there a way that they work in the first place, a norm or ideal at all, instructions to deviate from when needed or desired? All relationships, it feels like to me, are anarchical (which isn't a bad thing at all, not inherently). They feel messy, maybe because I don't expect them to be, or because they aren't portrayed in a real kind of messiness in media. It's a less tropey messiness. I have no idea what will happen next.

My decision re: genitalia. I'd like to draw more of it, for fun and out of interest, to see how that changes the way I frame it for myself. I'd like to explore, as well, my interest in fanfics and porn that emphasize the feeling of sex more than its moving parts—how sex pollen interests me, the stirring in someone's gut, hotness felt while flirting, clothed > naked bodies themselves. When I draw things that edge into porn, I dig open mouths, affected eyes, blushing, bulges, sweat, wet spots, the configurations of a body in pleasure. And then again, the stereotypically female body on its own, doing nothing, catches my eye, too. (Desire is immensely confusing.) I don't know what my argument is here. I'm not sure what I'm doing. I write all of this and what I mean is, I hope my squeamishness doesn't offend. I hope I'm not hurting anyone. I hope Cavar still wants to write with me, that writing this doesn't further cement my being, even unintentionally, squeamishly -phobic towards any(thing/one), prejudiced despite efforts not to be. I apologize for turning this document about scholarly coupledom into a conversation on my occasional squeamishness on a somewhat unrelated topic. Should I file away everything I've written, start again from where I first diverged? Or is at least some of this workable, something to mold into scholarship or poetry? Is this just one of those things we're meant to figure out as we go?

My last girlfriend loved flowers, although I felt somewhat ambivalent buying them for her. They were just flowers. Still, I feel the compulsion to offer something like them here.

Dear Cavar: I got your Halloween card in the mail on Saturday; I have it standing up on my bathroom counter now; I look at it every time I enter. I have a card like it that I filled up with stickers two or three weeks ago with the intention of sending it to you; one or two of the stickers are even the same. (I was waiting to confirm your address, and then I forgot about the thing until I found it again while organizing papers.) Writing in the second person feels so much less essayistic and so much more romantic, or stereotypically so. Maybe the right word is intimate. My heart flutters a bit at that word, or it beats a little faster, or I sweat a little more noticeably than I was a few minutes ago; I can feel the heat of it under my arms. My fingers are a little damper on the keyboard. I got your card, anyway, and it's the first piece of mail I've received, I think, with the name I've been using written on the front. I value the envelope as much as the card itself, and not just because of the name on it—maybe because it has your address, as well? The card itself is stiff cardstock, but the envelope is softer, a little battered from its travel; it bears stamps and marks of post office visits between California and Illinois. I don't know if I've ever seen a card as lovable as the envelope that held it, now that I think about it. Not if it was sent through the mail.

I wonder if I don't fear the term partner so much as the monogamy it so often implies, the strictures of the normal romantic/sexual relationship. If I thought of myself as having multiple partners of all kinds (familial, platonic, academic, spiritual), would I feel less like I did with my first girlfriend and the one man I slept with? Would I feel less like I was muting myself for days or weeks on end? With my past partners, I've felt a sensation of losing time, of not being entirely present until I found myself alone again, often after days on end. I've never felt that way with Cavar, I think—on the contrary, it still feels exciting that we've come into contact, that I've gotten to talk to someone with whom I can do the very opposite of muting myself. In fact, I'm currently revising this paragraph while on the phone with them, both of us unmuted. Maybe we just get each other. (Other autistic people are so much easier to talk to.) (For me, anyway.) Or maybe we've done communication right, established the boundaries each of us needs, opened ourselves to and even welcomed the notion that we can always tweak things if need(s) be. (It's both, of course, as always.)

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Ellery Russian's concept of crip lust of recognition could apply here, too. As Piepzna-Samarasinha described it, "I think it's like any identity stuff, I mean, the first time I fucked someone else who was south Asian, I was like—and I mean I know it's corny to talk about 'going home,' but I felt that. And there was something really healing about that" (quoted in Mingus, 2010).

This all sounds a bit poetic in a melodramatic way, I feel like—like a blog post > a paper, even an essay. Apologies, LOL.

Writing this has me wanting to write more, with Cavar and on my own, to get back to theory. Is this crip time if it's 2pm and I still haven't eaten breakfast, if I've just been typing, again on a Tuesday?

A girl I kind-of-crushed on for a few weeks told me last week that she'd realized she was aromantic, and I thought, I'd love to be in a not-relationship with her, this girl who'd just expressed her own disinterest in relationships of romance and length. What does that desire amount to? It's not, or not necessarily that I want to be in a long-term queerplatonic or sexual relationship with her. Nonnormative intimacies that evade the categories of [sexual-romantic] relationship and friendship. The marker of queerplatonic confers a sense of importance upon these relationships traditionally denied under cishetero- and amato-normativities. For further discussion of queerplatonic definitions and partnerships, refer to Omnes et Nihil's (2014) Queerplatonic Zucchinis: A Short Primer. I'd like to talk with her more, to crush on her just a tiny bit in my own small way, to feel attracted to someone who also isn't into romance. I find her aromanticism itself attractive. I want to be closer to her, or I'm curious about the possibility, but not necessarily, I suppose, out of a desire for an end. I should reply to the last text she sent me.

It fascinates me, how my aromantic/asexual/even aplatonic (Angela [Actuallyasexual], 2015) attractions towards different people can be so different from each other: With Cavar, I want to talk; with this girl in one of my grad seminars, IDK, I want to flirt, to drink, to see a film, to hike. Maybe. Or maybe not. (I'm a mess, or maybe that's normal, whatever that word means.)

On aplatonicism, Angela Actuallyasexual (2015) wrote: "In a society that already puts heavy emphasis on romantic bonds, aromantics are saying that they shouldn't have to experience any kind of bond. Something like aplatonic differentiates those aromantics who still experience some kind of strong emotional bond and those aromantics who don't. People might use it as an identity qualifier (ex. 'I'm aromantic, but I am aplatonic') to challenge the current discourse surrounding non-romantic identity, and to talk about the nuanced experience of being both aromantic and unable to form other kinds of bonds."