joreth: (feminism)
I just made a connection that I've been dancing around for years but I don't think I ever drew such a bold line between before.   Most people who have heard of the word "limerence" confuse it or use it interchangeably with NRE, and they are not synonyms.

NRE is that giddy feeling of being "in love" that you have at the beginning of a relationship.  It has some characteristics in common with limerence, but it also has some very important distinctions.  For instance, what it has in common is that, during NRE, you may think about the other person to the extent that you have trouble concentrating on other things. That can be characterized as "intrusive thoughts".  But limerence is *really* about "intrusive thoughts", more like a mental illness has "intrusive thoughts". Those thoughts become downright obsessive.

Limerence also does not require any relationship to actually exist.  It requires the right combination of Hope and Fear - hope for the "limerent object" (i.e. the person you're limerent about, and "object" is really a very accurate term here because they are often objectifying the other person) to reciprocate your feelings and fear that they won't.  People can be limerent about strangers they have never spoken to (like the cute bank teller that you see every payday or the person who always sits 3 seats behind the driver on your bus commute home), and even people they have never come in contact with like celebrities.  In fact, the scary kind of celebrity stalking has all the hallmarks of limerence.

Once you're actually *in* a relationship, limerence is more likely to fade because, now that you've "secured" the relationship, the amount of fear that they don't reciprocate drops (for most people, anyway).  But having a crush on someone who is also willing to be your friend? That's a recipe for maintaining limerence indefinitely because the friendship keeps feeding the hope and the continued not-dating keeps feeding the fear.

One of the hallmark symptoms of limerence is in a particular daydream.  The daydream involves the limerent person in a situation requiring them to save the limerent object's life.  This act of saving them is what finally brings them to the attention of their L.O.  The L.O. falls for them because this selfless act pulls the scales from their eyes and they finally see them as worthy of love.

Many times, this daydream actually results in the limerent person's death, because if they were to actually achieve their goal of obtaining a relationship with the L.O., they would have to live with the reality of relating to another human being, not the perfect angel casing they have constructed around their L.O.  So their "love" remains "pure" and "unsullied" because it is only a moment of sacrifice and recognition, perfect in its transitory nature.

To give an example, a very common daydream for someone suffering limerence is to imagine that they are walking down the street one day, and they pass their L.O. on the street.  Sometimes they come up with elaborate reasons for why the L.O. is in that particular place and time or why they are (mine as a kid was that I finally convinced my parents to take me to this touristy island near where I grew up, where I heard my teeny-bopper celebrity crush liked to hang out).  But regardless, they are both there, on the sidewalk.

Suddenly, a bus comes careening around the corner.  It has no brakes!  It's barreling down, heading right for the L.O.!  They dash across the street, or down the sidewalk, or wherever they are, and make it to their L.O. in the nick of time, pushing them out of the way to save them from the bus, but not quite fast enough to jump to safety themselves.

The L.O. picks themselves up and runs over to where they lay, broken and bloody.  The L.O. cradles their head in their lap and cries.  The L.O. thanks them and profess undying love to them, begging them to please hold on, help will be there soon.  They stare up into the beautiful eyes of their L.O., they smile through the pain, they say it was nothing, that the L.O. deserves to live because the world will be better by having the L.O. in it.  And then they die, held in the arms of the one they love who literally loved them until death did they part.

The daydream does not *need* to have death at the end of it to be a limerence daydream, but it's common. Sometimes, the daydream ends with the saving, but instead of the hero winning the victim, the hero graciously, magnanimously accepts no reward and walks off into the sunset, leaving the L.O. staring wistfully after them.

And this is the connection I just made. This is basically every MRA, incel fantasy (incel = "involuntary celibate"). The reason they are the way that they are is because they have a toxic dose of misogyny mixed with limerence. The whole incel subculture exists for misogynists who are also limerent-prone.

This makes everything make more sense now.

This realization comes because of a story I just read about some dorky dude who saves his L.O. from a would-be mugger while her jock boyfriend freezes, and he saves them all by pulling out a "judo katana" (I shit you not) in the face of a gun and calmly lectures the mugger into fright.  Then his L.O. kisses him in thanks, but he doesn't even smile, he's just "doing his duty".

When I read this story, my first thought was horror at limerence, as it is every time I cross paths with it.  I've always found this obsessive state to be a terrible thing.  But the comments kept mocking this story for the MRA drivel that it is, which I initially overlooked.  So, I was hit by a connection. This entire subculture is completely fueled by limerence and tainted by misogyny, like a particularly potent and noxious gasoline additive. That combination leads to exactly this group of people.

I don't know what to do with this connection that I always kinda knew but never really had it out in front of me before.  But as someone who thinks of limerence as almost a mental disorder, like any other obsessive disorder (disclaimer: I have at least 2 of them myself), I feel that this connection Means Something.

In the book, Love and Limerence by Dorothy Tennov, the author goes on to explain that there are people who are prone to limerence and people who are not prone to limerence (although people not "prone" to it can still have experienced it, just not regularly). And the people who are not prone to it have a very difficult time understanding exactly what it is, but when they do seem to understand it, they all think it sounds like the worst mental state ever to be in. It doesn't sound pleasant at all, it sounds like torture. If they do have a brush with it, they all universally hate the experience and take steps to avoid it in the future.

People who are prone to limerence can range from people who think it's awful to people who think it's fun, much like those who are prone to NRE. It's an emotional roller coaster, and some people enjoy roller coasters while some people don't.

But people who are not prone to limerence have more trouble understanding it. When you read the book, if you think "OMG that's totally me!", then you are probably prone to limerence.  If you read it and say "well, I experience some of these things too, have I ever had limerence?" but then get to the chapter describing what not-limerence is and then give a sigh of relief, you're probably not prone to limerence.

I am *not* prone to limerence, in spite of a brief visit to Limerenceville in my hormonal puberty stage for a handful of teen actors.  To me, I think it sounds like the most horrible awful thing a person can go thorough, but I also really dislike NRE, which is much less ... just less.  Toxic maybe? It'll make you make bad decisions, kinda like being drunk, but I don't think it's *inherently* an objectifying, brain-fucking, selfish mental state to be in, which I think of limerence as.

And to suddenly realize that this is what incels are going through, and the fact that nobody outside of a few narrow "relationship and the brain" communities know about it, means that we have no structures in place for building up defenses for it or treating it once limerence has taken root.  We even have rom-coms ('80s movies are lousy with limerence!) celebrating and rewarding it!  Throw in systemic support for misogyny and boom!  A culture ready-made to create MRA incels.
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