This image is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

I first came across the term “lithromantic” while reading a brilliant piece of literature – a fanfiction published on “Lith”, in Ancient Greek means “stone”; lithromantics are only capable of experiencing attraction whilst under the impression that it will never be reciprocated. As such, the protagonist spends his entire life convinced that he is loathed by the boy he’s helplessly in love with, even when said boy offers him a marriage proposal. The plot twist comes when it turns out that his love interest’s apparent coldness has been a carefully crafted attempt at sustaining the illusion of a doomed, one-sided romance – he fears the lithromantic protagonist would lose interest and flee once he realises that he is, in fact, loved. 

Such a radically repressed notion of intimacy would solely exist within the boundaries of self-indulgent fiction. This self-indulgence is not solely prompted by the fantasy of a reciprocal love affair, but the coherence and conviction with which the protagonist’s lithromantic tendencies are portrayed; his sexuality (or asexuality) is identifiable, easily pinned-down, fleshed out, and exotified for all its radical advantages. In real life, sexuality or its stereotypically void counterpart, asexuality, both seem to exist on a continuum that is not quite so clear-cut. Whilst the experience of love, attraction, and desire can be extraordinary feelings, it becomes problematic to define these urges, even harder to measure and put a name to something quite the opposite – the curious, troubling lack.

There are pessimistic, preconceived notions surrounding asexuality and avoidant-attachments – especially as one’s social value, as is the case in university, seems to depend majorly on the amount of gossip that one generates and exchanges with others. Scandal is, after all, the vital currency. I am often an observer and listener in such situations, most of the time finding it quite hard to grasp how is it that people seem so interested in developing fast attachments with each other, how they seem to constantly crave some sort of emotional or physical intimacy, some assurance of human companionship in their lives, and that elusive ideal we call “love”. I don’t find myself believing in the existence of this particular emotion – brief spurts of heated erotic and romantic attraction, yes, but hardly romantic love. Love is reserved for close family members, whatever honeymoon frenzy a couple was blinded by initially would undoubtedly dissipate, leaving behind love in its perhaps most loyal and familial form – I would argue there is little romance in that. 

But I have hardly been immune to the desire for intimacy. While going for a walk in the wintry, sad-looking university parks with someone perhaps a little too close to its closing time (we almost ended up being the only ones locked up inside), I did wonder what it would be like – to go on such walks holding hands with someone like this instead of having such an ambivalent distance wedged between us. It is not sexual or romantic attraction that I shun – I suppose the asexual label eludes me. But what title or identification even is there for perhaps people like this – who are constantly hesitant, relatively lower-maintenance, who simply demand a little less from intimacies?

I would denounce these identifications. Diagnosing the matter with a fancy, seemingly psychoanalytic term like “lithromantic”, “demisexual” or “avoidant-attached” and all that certainly does not alter or fix the crux of the issue. Sexuality, after all, according to theorists like Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Judith Butler, is performative rather than prescriptive, and embodies an open mesh of possibilities; it exists on a continuum, not a constrictive definition that can be clamped around me like a suit of armour. In an era so fervent with the gloriousness of self-exploration, self-definition and championing the certainty of these newly-invented identities, I have come to simultaneously repress and embrace my own ambivalence and discordances.