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

S. Cavar + ulysses/constance bougie

10/26/21 – 10/29/21

(the) mood

I ended our call early today, not least because I was feeling spoonless, tired, prickly—the sound of Ulysses's eating and sneezing grated on my spine. Everything ticked me off. Some days of scholarly coupledom, a term Ulysses has usefully problematized[21] in his lists[22] above, go like this: stumblingly, haltingly, otherwise-adverbingly. In my mid-call notes, I described this state as "not being In The Mood™." If we're to use the imperfect language of wordfucking to talk about what is happening here between us, in the doc, through the computer and the phone, then I'm the wife feigning a headache. Of course, such imagery implies that I am one to sleep in the same bed, or even the same room, with a hypothetical sexual partner (I am not one to do those things), that said partner would require a false explanation to cease their sexual advances (as if justification were necessary), and that I would, in the first place, select a partner unaware of the fact that I am (perpetually) low on social spoons. All couples—all pairs of people of any relational variety—have their times of miscommunication, but, of course, I try to minimize these with shared basic principles.

Anyway, to return to the point (I have a feeling I will be doing a lot of meandering in this entry) all coupledom implies its Bad Days. Loving cooperation implies inevitable fights, if only to prove the general trend of cooperation. Today was not a Bad Day in the sense of fighting or even passive aggression, but it might be categorized as Bad given the (re)productive mandate placed upon couples, including academic ones.

When I asked Ulysses about his discomfort with the label "scholarly couple," which we'd originally devised in tandem, they hedged. Sometimes, he told me, he loved the term, just as he sometimes loved making sex jokes, even as other asexuals dislike even perfunctory and sterile discussions of sex. Other times, they told me, the language felt squeamish, icky in its very sound. He wonders in the preceding passage whether or not this disgust toward one's bodily parts, functions, and/or the language used to gesture toward them, is okay. I said on our call that I believed [coming back to this doc one day later] being disgusted with human bodily functions in general was probably a bad idea, but being disgusted with the push to take part in them or discuss them in depth was completely understandable. I mentioned, and maintain, that body neutrality (refer to Horn, 2021) might be a useful analytic here. It has certainly helped me in my own life. A body-neutral approach might sit with personal squeamish and even agree that a given bodily function is icky or unpleasant. It wouldn't pressure an individual to "learn to love" said unpleasantness, but equally it would shift away from the impulse to cover up or eradicate what causes it.

Sometimes, as I said, such a neutral approach isn't even necessary—there are some days our bodies don't gross us out as much as other days. Really, it's a matter of being In The Mood™. That's a shorthand for allo cis heterosexuals to talk about whether or not they feel like having sex (or under what conditions they can be made to want to have sex)[coming back to this a second day later]

[coming back to this a third day later] Lately, I guess, I haven't been In The Mood™. It's strange, because I've been thinking so extensively about *gestures* all of this about coupledom and relational/emotional boundaries, about scholarly (re)production, about how we call the ways we are / with each other. This relationship I am doing with Ulysses, this scholarly-something, has an inherent crip dimension that becomes clear to me after I return to Really Write for the first time in several days. We are writing "on" (in) crip time. Crip time is happening within this text. The seams and lumps and misfitting[23] mishaps meant to be ironed from the text are left inside of it, because crip texts do not fit. They do not fit within a certain space—Ulysses's and my collaborative efforts span text messages, Google Doc comments, Google Doc files, Facebook messages, Twitter DMs, video and voice calls, and emails—and they do not fit within certain time constraints. We stretch across days, weeks, months, and years. Our myriad projects interlace, go on pause, and re-emerge anew. Further, there is no definite space where our hanging out ends and our academic work begins. What[24] are work and play, anyway?

All of this is to say that our collaborative work, writing into this document and slowly, consistently embedding (em-bedding? Do I bed you with text? Does bed, in this case, mean less fucking and more tucking-in?) crip temporal and relational practices into our work has profoundly impacted this document as a shared space. As such, it has also impacted the shared space that is our relationship. I write this paragraph from the future of its predecessors, in 2023, having been thoroughly confounded in my expectations of productivity, my standards regarding timeline and communication. I have lumbered my way through a sea of normate-inf(l)ected weeds, unearthed the new praxis that unfolds in this webtext.

Christina V. Cedillo (2018): "Because spaces shape bodies and bodies shape space, the ways by which we navigate spaces and interactions are intrinsically rhetorical." How do I, Cavar, and Ulysses, move through this document differently across time? How must we shift our language-movement to make good on the dance we've promised each other? I have learned over the course of this project to adjust my orientation to this collaborative, semi-demi-quasi-academic space, allowing my "self" to be reoriented, even transformed.

kjscnsdjknk time

I spoke to someone recently about the notion of the biological clock in terms of sexual reproduction. There is a tendency, I think, to apply these same logics to relationships, even those which will clearly not result in pregnancy and birth. The impulse to get it together, settle down, and enter adult [real] life enters relationships even in micro-ways: We feel compelled to text or call back within an allotted timeframe; to remember certain personal preferences or aspects of a partner's life after knowing them for a given period of time; to see each other in person a requisite number of times per year, distance be damned. This micro-clock becomes biologized, too, in the sense that failure to comply with it becomes a guaranteed sign of relationship-failure, and renders one an inherently Bad Partner. Beyond the pronounced neurotypicality of these demands, there is also an emphasis, again, on productivity, that should not be overlooked. A partnership becomes good only if it can do something, even if that something is simply the generation of physical closeness, exchange of language, or other forms of social-life integration.

These relational expectations are fundamentally incompatible with crip/Mad/ND temporalities and/as trans/queer/ace/aro approaches. These latter approaches are non-normative in that they deemphasize productivity in all its forms, and especially efficient productivity done with a single partner within a brief timespan. They also deemphasize the implied and explicit turnaround deadlines built into not only our work but also our play, instead reconceptualizing slowness as carefulness (care-fullness). (Refer to Price & Kerschbaum, 2016, pp. 36–37.) Ulysses and I have been in this relationship for more than a year, and we have not published a single thing together. We have had public Twitter threads, and we have read each other's individual works prior to publication. We've kept in touch about D&D, moving, books, stickers, and family, and woven into these conversations are our scholarly questions about (a)romanticism, (a)sexualities, and neuro/queer/crip/trans/Mad erotics.

This is a slow form of scholarship, and it is also a nonlinear one. It is also one into which I have brought relationships with others. I have been thinking about quoi recently, the WTF? of how I love and desire. Because it describes an often unresolvable ambiguity between romantic and platonic desire, the term quoiromantic is also known as "WTFromantic" (Lang, 2018, p. 69). Thinking asexually (to paraphrase Ela Przybylo and Danielle Cooper, 2014) with Ulysses has led me to new ways of being in relation to myself, my work, and my other colleagues. New ways of living and loving. These ways do not pursue some relationalities at the exclusion of others, nor do they demand productivity from relationships whose purpose is not exploitation but exploration. We have our good, bad, and ambivalent days, we have our days in which the label of couple feels alien and others in which it feels intrinsic. Right now is whenever we write together. We are always having texts with multiple partners.

We are never only a couple, though, because we are inevitably informed by our work with others. We're informed by the breaks we take from each other, breaks spent reading and writing and speaking and listening with new interlocutors and in new ways. I have spent these past days Not In The Mood and yet fully in the mood to read, to write to others and on my own, to think with these concepts while doing the laundry, walking to class, or cutting vegetables. This is not a coupledom in the sense that everything leads back to us. It is a coupledom in the sense that we choose, again and again, to bring things to each other.


[21] And what is aspec (/a-spec) identity and politics if not a problematization of the anatomy of society itself?

[22] I appreciate his use of graphs and charts and other visual models, mostly because it brings to our work something I don't bring by instinct. I am a word-person. They are also a word-person, but their words come in different shapes.

[23] Rosemarie Garland-Thompson (2011) used the term "misfit" to denote the material relationship between disabled embodiment and existing (abled, ableist) spatiotemporal structures. Notably, Garland-Thompson wrote, the concept of misfitting "highlights adaptability, resourcefulness, and subjugated knowledges" (p. 592) in disabled subjects, rather than framing disability as inherent deficit. Ulysses's and my experiences as multiply-disabled people are, likewise, integral to the composition of this text.

[24] In future work, I'm interested in exploring the "quoi-" (coined by Tumblr user Epochryphal in 2012) prefix as a political orientation, not-unrelated to a broader aro political project. Like aro, quoi- refuses the straightening, simplifying narratives of sex/gender/romantic life, instead confusing, disidentifying with, or feeling ambivalent about the substance of a given form(s) of attraction. Ulysses's and my scholarly coupledom evokes a quoi sensibility. (Refer to Epochryphal, 2012, 2017; for a timeline of quoi-coinage, refer to Coyote, 2019.)