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anyone else feel like ditching the word "platonic?"


treepod
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quick disclaimer: I vaguely remember there was thread a while back addressing controversy about whether aro or ace people coined the term queer/quasiplatonic relationship. I'm really not interested in continuing that conversation. If someone has brought this up before, I apologize for being redundant, but I couldn't find anything because the search bar on this website seems kinda inefficient. Also, I'm in no way implying that we have to have unified terminology as a community. Label yourself and your relationships however makes sense to you.

 

That being said, I'm really tired of the ambiguity surrounding what "platonic" actually means. For one thing, I don't even like Plato, and for another, it's a word originally coined to simply describe love without sex/sexual desire (see here, the etymology: [link]). To me, it sounds like regardless of who came up with the idea of a qpr (like I said, not interested in that convo), platonic seems to ultimately describe allo aces in romantic relationships better than it does us. While it's true that colloquially platonic often = friendship, I think that might just be a result of a false dichotomy society created (if you're not having sex, you're "just friends").

Instead of a qpp, I might call someone an aromantic partner? Lol, I kinda wish "friends with benefits" didn't just refer to sex, but also like, domesticity, commitment, closeness, etc. The "benefit" is my need for constancy is satisfied 😂

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To be frank with you, i would call them a "close friend" probably. I mean, i am already disturbing the norms so why a friend could not be that? I like the word. C'est mes amis, mes potos.

I am generally disinterested from qpr (no offense to anyone of course) and the "who was first" debate is...meh. Not one i will fight for.

I used to be in the need of specific labels, but right now i am just... Eh 🤷‍♂️

 

But yes, the etymology is another debate. Peoples use it to describe a non romantic relationship, but norms are norms and they often think about no sex with it. I think.

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Interesting question. It kinda echoes to something I was thinking about yesterday (I was thinking how not practical are the words platonic and queerplatonic because they are very close but talk about different things, which create confusion, and I see it here as you talk about both of these terms).

 

Personally, I don't really care about etymology. Words evolve and what matters is how they are used now. If we use it to mean not romantic instead of not sexual, that's the meaning now. And to be honest, even I discovers aromanticism and asexuality, I used it to mean "sexual but not romantic" and was very confused when I learned it means the contrary.

That being said, I understand why people are disturbed by that. In particular aro allos. Some people can use the etymology to dismiss the right to use the term for sexual QPR, o sexual friendship. Or people can be not at ease to use these words due to their history. But if we get rid of the word platonic, what word can replace it?

 

4 hours ago, treepod said:

I kinda wish "friends with benefits" didn't just refer to sex, but also like, domesticity, commitment, closeness, etc. The "benefit" is my need for constancy is satisfied

In French, we used English words to talk about friends with benefits, but... not these ones. We say "sex friends". And I was very confused to learn "sex friends" is not the Engish terms. French people must be more direct in their language and say things clearly instead of periphrases I suppose. 😅

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16 minutes ago, nonmerci said:

And I was very confused to learn "sex friends" is not the Engish terms. French people must be more direct in their language and say things clearly instead of periphrases I suppose. 

We do that all the time, using pseudo english haha in french haha ! More than we think XD 

20 minutes ago, nonmerci said:

Personally, I don't really care about etymology. Words evolve and what matters is how they are used now. If we use it to mean not romantic instead of not sexual, that's the meaning now. And to be honest, even I discovers aromanticism and asexuality, I used it to mean "sexual but not romantic" and was very confused when I learned it means the contrary.

Etymology is funny, you take one word, look at the etymology and realise how it evolved. But indeed we are not changing our whole language for it. It just get strange when there is an actual debate about it. 

 

22 minutes ago, nonmerci said:

That being said, I understand why people are disturbed by that. In particular aro allos. Some people can use the etymology to dismiss the right to use the term for sexual QPR, o sexual friendship. Or people can be not at ease to use these words due to their history. But if we get rid of the word platonic, what word can replace it?

I think this is a valid concern, that peoples would be uncomfortable with it. 

 

I will admit that even as a non ace aro, i don't really think about it that much. But that's only me, the question deserve to be asked. 

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Personally I don't feel the need to label my relationships at all 😆 But if I did I wouldn't use the term "queerplatonic" as I really don't understand what that's supposed to mean. I would just use plain English however it best fit the relationship... close friend, best friend, housemate, life partner, lover etc.

1 hour ago, nonmerci said:

Some people can use the etymology to dismiss the right to use the term for sexual QPR, o sexual friendship.

I don't understand this attitude at all, there are lots of words which we use to mean completely different things to what they used to mean. Do this people also refuse to admit that "gay" means homosexual, or "cool" means good?

Edited by Rolo
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I wish there was a term that could be used for a committed sexual non romantic relationship. It feels strange to use the term queer platonic relationship for that since most people associate platonic with non sexual.

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16 hours ago, nonmerci said:

Interesting question. It kinda echoes to something I was thinking about yesterday (I was thinking how not practical are the words platonic and queerplatonic because they are very close but talk about different things, which create confusion, and I see it here as you talk about both of these terms).

 

Personally, I don't really care about etymology. Words evolve and what matters is how they are used now. If we use it to mean not romantic instead of not sexual, that's the meaning now. And to be honest, even I discovers aromanticism and asexuality, I used it to mean "sexual but not romantic" and was very confused when I learned it means the contrary.

That being said, I understand why people are disturbed by that. In particular aro allos. Some people can use the etymology to dismiss the right to use the term for sexual QPR, o sexual friendship. Or people can be not at ease to use these words due to their history. But if we get rid of the word platonic, what word can replace it?

 

In French, we used English words to talk about friends with benefits, but... not these ones. We say "sex friends". And I was very confused to learn "sex friends" is not the Engish terms. French people must be more direct in their language and say things clearly instead of periphrases I suppose. 😅

About etymology- this is true! Words are what we make of them. It's possible it could come to mean love that is not allo in one way or another. I really hope there aren't too many people out there trying to gatekeep. As for other words, I wonder if there's room for terms like the ones the ancient Greeks came up with: agape, eros, storge, philia, etc. Just a thought. "Sex friends" is very succinct! Haha

18 hours ago, Leton. said:

To be frank with you, i would call them a "close friend" probably. I mean, i am already disturbing the norms so why a friend could not be that? I like the word. C'est mes amis, mes potos.

That does sound like it could be amusing too, if other people are confused by it. I don't think I would mind.

7 hours ago, Holmbo said:

I wish there was a term that could be used for a committed sexual non romantic relationship. It feels strange to use the term queer platonic relationship for that since most people associate platonic with non sexual.

I was thinking of this too. Not applicable to me personally but it's another complication. I was just like, is this word useful to me? Maybe not!

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On 10/2/2020 at 5:49 AM, treepod said:

For one thing, I don't even like Plato,

Yeah, but that's not really an argument.

On 10/2/2020 at 5:49 AM, treepod said:

and for another, it's a word originally coined to simply describe love without sex/sexual desire (see here, the etymology: [link]).

It would take quite some effort to find out the true etymological history of "platonic love" (Plato's ideas, their renaissance interpretation etc.). A 100 word elevator pitch like in the link doesn't cover all the nuances. We'd have to study at least the Symposion, Phaedrus and Marsilio Ficino's writings about amor platonicus.

But what would we gain from this effort? Words regularly change their meanings over time, and words regularly suggest false associations. E.g. the programming languages JavaScript and Java, it sounds they're related -- but they are not at all.

On 10/2/2020 at 5:49 AM, treepod said:

While it's true that colloquially platonic often = friendship, I think that might just be a result of a false dichotomy society created (if you're not having sex, you're "just friends").

IMHO, the most common modern use of "platonic" is to describe a relationship where sex is to be expected, but does not happen. It seems "platonic" isn't used for relationships where sex is not expected. E.g. between two straight women "friendship" is used, not "platonic".

The problem with this usage is that "expected" is very subjective and also needs inferring (guessing) sexual orientations. But that's how it is and not likely to go away soon.

I think that "platonic" shouldn't be used to describe aro relationships. It leads to a lot of confusion since the general meaning of the word is so different.

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  • 3 weeks later...

companionate is a good term for this! Companionate love, what we would call quasiplatonic love, is basically liking someone a lot as a person and wanting a close bond with them, but not without the limerence and infatuation of romance. romantic love on the other hand is infatuation/limerence plus liking someone a lot.

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I hav no idea, i didn't even know platonic had a different definition. The more ya know :) 

in my opinion, the meaning of a word should often be the way it's used, rather than the original definition. Words are just tools to express thoughts and reality, the dictionary is not the bible, stuff changes, and i think it's important to acknowledge colloquial language and slang. I understand if folks who are passionate about linguistics might disagree, and honestly i respect that, ya nerds : ) Unless you're misgendering nonbinary people by arguing that singular they is uNgRaMaTiCaL. Then i do not respect you.

So if we're in a real-life context, in which most people think "platonic" = "friends," saying "we're queerplatonic" can explain it pretty well. But if some prefer other words, or feels that "platonic" shouldn't/doesn't mean "friends," or wanna explain their relationship a different way, that's also awesome. I personally call my qpp my squishy, since i have a squish on him

 

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@DeltaV alluded to this, but i'm going to try to expain it as briefly and accurately as possible, checking some sources again--forgive me if i'm not super successful.  the person who coined the (translated) term 'platonic love' was not plato, but marsilio ficino, in the 15th century.  he did base it on a concept by socrates referenced in plato's symposium: forms of love exist in a ladder/hierarchy where love of a particular beautiful person (which we can interpret as an instance of sexual attraction and which i would argue doesn't belong in a classification of love at all, but anyway) is at the bottom and 'love of beauty itself'--heavenly beauty--is at the top.  according to ficino:  "the passion of a lover is not quenched by the mere touch or sight of a body for it does not desire this or that body, but desires the splendour of the divine light shining through bodies, and is amazed and awed by it."  i can't tell whether this vision of love necessarily excludes sexual attraction or activity, or romantic, actually, but i'd guess not.  (also consider that romantic love wasn't as big a thing in society back then.)  it is believed that couples of the time who considered their love an example of ficino's concept prioritized the romantic aspect over the sexual.  in the 17th century the concept was called neoplatonism.  james howell decribed 'platonick love' as "a love abstracted from all corporeal gross impressions and sensual appetite, but consists in contemplations and ideas of mind" (so excluding sexual attraction).  some people found this pretentious, and relationships which included sex more 'natural'.  later, platonic lovers were described as choosing celibacy, not necessarily lacking sexual or romantic attraction to each other.  in 1846, george henry lewes defined 'platonic love' as "the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry".  in all of this it's hard to distinguish what we (particularly we aros) currently understand as sexual from romantic, and romantic from platonic.  now, the casual way people use the term 'platonic' is pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum of importance compared to the original definition.  word detective alluded to this in 2003, saying that the phrase 'platonic relationship' "turned up in english around 1630 and various people have claimed to be in 'just platonic' relationships ever since.  they are, of course, almost always lying."  i myself am not exaggerating when i say i'm in platonic love by the centuries-old definition with my best friend, and i'm going to use the term even if it doesn't communicate what i wish it would.

On 10/1/2020 at 11:49 PM, treepod said:

Lol, I kinda wish "friends with benefits" didn't just refer to sex

i remember this being discussed here before, and i agree.  i refuse to call my current sexual partner my fwb because i don't consider him a friend--not that i don't like him as a person, you understand, just that i'm not that emotionally close to him, at least not as of now--i say we're acquaintances with benefits.  as i mentioned in another post, my roommate has what i'm sure we'd all agree is an actual friend with benefits.  the other day we were wondering whether there was a term we could both use for our partners and i somewhat jokingly suggested 'lovers' (as @Rolo mentioned); my roommate found that hilarious so now that's what we call them (not in front of them 😆).  of course i have to come back to the point that i don't actually think it makes much sense since we don't love our respective lovers, or they, us.  it's probably another word whose meaning has changed over time. 

On 10/2/2020 at 4:37 AM, nonmerci said:

We say "sex friends".

no kidding, now that's funny.  like "j'ai passé hier soir avec mon sex friend"?  my study of french has been too academic to cover that one.  it sounds awkward in english, but maybe it wouldn't so much if it was commonly used.

On 10/2/2020 at 2:18 PM, Holmbo said:

I wish there was a term that could be used for a committed sexual non romantic relationship. It feels strange to use the term queer platonic relationship for that since most people associate platonic with non sexual.

hmm, would i hypothetically describe a relationship as both platonic and sexual?  yeah, because there are cases where i describe my attraction to someone as platonic and sexual (two different types which happen to exist at the same time). would i call it a qpr?  man, idk, it's kind of hard to imagine having sex with someone i'd consider a qpp.  i guess it's like the idea from so long ago, that pure, heavenly love, incompatible with sexual attraction.

summary: language is...hmm.  i'm just gonna go on saying whatever, you know?  whatever feels right.

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On 10/2/2020 at 4:49 AM, treepod said:

That being said, I'm really tired of the ambiguity surrounding what "platonic" actually means. For one thing, I don't even like Plato, and for another, it's a word originally coined to simply describe love without sex/sexual desire (see here, the etymology: [link]). To me, it sounds like regardless of who came up with the idea of a qpr (like I said, not interested in that convo), platonic seems to ultimately describe allo aces in romantic relationships better than it does us.

The notion of "platonic" meaning "not romantic" appears to be a quirk of US English. Given that the only dictionary to mention this is Merriam-Webster. Whilst every other English dictionary goes with "not sexual" or "not physical". Additionally there's the term "zucchini"...
IME allo aces tend to use "romantic", rather than "platonic" or "romoplantonic/platoromantic".

To me QPRs tend to look quite romance like.

On 10/2/2020 at 4:49 AM, treepod said:

 While it's true that colloquially platonic often = friendship, I think that might just be a result of a false dichotomy society created (if you're not having sex, you're "just friends").

The term "platonic friends" also exists, implying that other forms of friendship are possible.
Something which makes platonic/romantic a false dichotomy is that the concept of "soulmates". Strongly associated with romantic relationships whilst being taken from Plato's work.
 

On 10/2/2020 at 4:49 AM, treepod said:

Lol, I kinda wish "friends with benefits" didn't just refer to sex, but also like, domesticity, commitment, closeness, etc. The "benefit" is my need for constancy is satisfied 😂

Additionally allos tend to interpret the "friends" part of it as a euphemism.

 

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Now this is entirely a selfish opinion, but I like "platonic" because it does not have the word "romance" in it. The feelings that I have for my friends are not the absence of romantic feelings, but completely separate and valid emotions.

I also like the warmth of the word. "Aromantic" feels like "anaerobic" or "atrophy" or "apathy." It feels like a void. But "platonic" at least is based on a human. It has the weight and the prestige that Western cultures give to those old Greek dudes, and makes me feel like I might be carrying on some ancient and noble tradition. 

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On 10/29/2020 at 2:11 PM, yupppp said:

It has the weight and the prestige that Western cultures give to those old Greek dudes, and makes me feel like I might be carrying on some ancient and noble tradition. 

As a non-White person I just want to say YIKES:stopapo:

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On 10/29/2020 at 10:11 PM, yupppp said:

It has the weight and the prestige that Western cultures give to those old Greek dudes, and makes me feel like I might be carrying on some ancient and noble tradition.

Only that "platonic" shares the fate of other words coming from Greek philosophy: sophistic, cynic, epicurean, stoic... they're all at least a bit distorted and disparaging.

I also don't think that Plato is given that much prestige today. The metaphysics espoused by him and Aristotle are regarded as archaic and "thankfully overcome" in favor of a modern materialist world view like by Hume and others. And the people who aren't into the latter, don't like them, too, because they are too elitist.

On 10/23/2020 at 6:18 AM, aro_elise said:

alluded to this, but i'm going to try to expain it as briefly and accurately as possible, checking some sources again--forgive me if i'm not super successful.  the person who coined the (translated) term 'platonic love' was not plato, but marsilio ficino, in the 15th century. 

I'm going to read the texts since this comes up so often in aro discussions.

On 10/23/2020 at 6:18 AM, aro_elise said:

forms of love exist in a ladder/hierarchy where love of a particular beautiful person (which we can interpret as an instance of sexual attraction and which i would argue doesn't belong in a classification of love at all, but anyway) is at the bottom and 'love of beauty itself'--heavenly beauty--is at the top.

It should be noted that Eros also has another property in the Symposium AFAICR. The unions motivated by him are "productive". At its most basic that would be children, but they can also produce virtuous deeds etc.

The "reproduction" of the Guardians in The Republic is odd... They don't marry and have families, instead they have temporary sexual relations determined by lots... so it's pure sexual attraction; the lowest rank of Eros as described in the Symposium. But it's the best for the state that the second highest caste just lives without any romantic love?

Edited by DeltaV
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On 10/23/2020 at 6:18 AM, aro_elise said:

no kidding, now that's funny.  like "j'ai passé hier soir avec mon sex friend"?  my study of french has been too academic to cover that one.  it sounds awkward in english, but maybe it wouldn't so much if it was commonly used.

I'm not suprised if that's sound akward in English. French specialty : create English expression that makes no sense in English.

But I think it says a lot about our country. The French are direct, they name what they name, no shame. But with friends with benefits, the nature of the benefits is hidden, as something taboo that needs periphrases to be named. I always felt like countries like the USA are less at-ease than us when it comes to sex, and it's funny to see even the language shows that.

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On 10/23/2020 at 5:18 AM, aro_elise said:

@DeltaV alluded to this, but i'm going to try to expain it as briefly and accurately as possible, checking some sources again--forgive me if i'm not super successful.  the person who coined the (translated) term 'platonic love' was not plato, but marsilio ficino, in the 15th century.  he did base it on a concept by socrates referenced in plato's symposium: forms of love exist in a ladder/hierarchy where love of a particular beautiful person (which we can interpret as an instance of sexual attraction and which i would argue doesn't belong in a classification of love at all, but anyway) is at the bottom and 'love of beauty itself'--heavenly beauty--is at the top.  according to ficino:  "the passion of a lover is not quenched by the mere touch or sight of a body for it does not desire this or that body, but desires the splendour of the divine light shining through bodies, and is amazed and awed by it."  i can't tell whether this vision of love necessarily excludes sexual attraction or activity, or romantic, actually, but i'd guess not.  (also consider that romantic love wasn't as big a thing in society back then.)  it is believed that couples of the time who considered their love an example of ficino's concept prioritized the romantic aspect over the sexual.  in the 17th century the concept was called neoplatonism.  james howell decribed 'platonick love' as "a love abstracted from all corporeal gross impressions and sensual appetite, but consists in contemplations and ideas of mind" (so excluding sexual attraction).  some people found this pretentious, and relationships which included sex more 'natural'.  later, platonic lovers were described as choosing celibacy, not necessarily lacking sexual or romantic attraction to each other.  in 1846, george henry lewes defined 'platonic love' as "the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry".  in all of this it's hard to distinguish what we (particularly we aros) currently understand as sexual from romantic, and romantic from platonic.  now, the casual way people use the term 'platonic' is pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum of importance compared to the original definition.  word detective alluded to this in 2003, saying that the phrase 'platonic relationship' "turned up in english around 1630 and various people have claimed to be in 'just platonic' relationships ever since.  they are, of course, almost always lying."  i myself am not exaggerating when i say i'm in platonic love by the centuries-old definition with my best friend, and i'm going to use the term even if it doesn't communicate what i wish it would.

I've heard it suggested that the correct context for "platonic" meaning "not sexual" is teacher/student relationships. Apparently Plato was against the, then common, practice of teachers having sex with their students.

The term "romantic" has also changed it's meaning substantially.
At least until Renaissance times it described only Latin derived languages.
With the term "romantic story" originally being associated with the adventure genre. What we'd now call a "romantic subplot" being unusual until the 20th century.

Edited by Mark
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  • 3 months later...
On 10/24/2020 at 11:27 PM, Mark said:

The notion of "platonic" meaning "not romantic" appears to be a quirk of US English. Given that the only dictionary to mention this is Merriam-Webster. Whilst every other English dictionary goes with "not sexual" or "not physical".

You know, all this time this sort of discussion has been going on and I never cross referenced dictionaries myself. English has so many registers and regional convention, so globally, the meaning of the word changes rather than the word itself when moving between different populations. You have me curious about the lesser known (Australian) dictionaries now. 

On 11/2/2020 at 3:52 AM, nonmerci said:

The French are direct, they name what they name, no shame. But with friends with benefits, the nature of the benefits is hidden, as something taboo that needs periphrases to be named. I always felt like countries like the USA are less at-ease than us when it comes to sex, and it's funny to see even the language shows that.

Not just the language, it is a big underlying echo from the past that influences all sorts of things, in all the colonial countries. Sometimes in the most unexpected ways. Then you bring all the diversity of English between differing populations into the equation.....it is a mess! 

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  • 5 months later...

Friends are friends all unique in their own way :D I don't see the need to add another word to it *shrugs* I can sort of get what platonic means tho.

all friends are equal but some are more equal than others.. or something

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This is a really interesting discussion...I can see that the cultural baggage of platonic can be an issue, and the term itself isn't going to be an accurate reflection of all experiences it's applied to. That said...I have been wondering if I'm aplatonic, so I'm not sure how I would represent that concept with a different word/phrase haha.

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