Are You Still Asexual or Aromantic If?

You Can Be Asexual and Still:

  • masturbate
  • choose to have sex in a romantic relationship to please your partner
  • orgasm or otherwise experience physical pleasure from sexual stimulation
  • experience romantic attraction and romantic love
  • get married
  • want children or have children
  • recognize that other people are physically attractive
  • consume porn in any and all formats, for the purpose of arousal + masturbation
  • be okay with having partnered sex
  • emotionally, psychologically, and/or physically enjoy partnered sex
  • have kinks and/or fetishes, including BDSM
  • be polyamorous, ethically nonmonogamous, or relationship anarchist
  • have a mental illness
  • have a physical illness or disability
  • be a survivor of sexual assault
  • have absolutely no sexual experience whatsoever
  • have a lot of sexual experience
  • be a sex worker
  • want others to find you attractive
  • love kissing, cuddling, hugs, holding hands, massages, co-sleeping, dancing with a partner, and other forms of nonsexual physical intimacy
  • have sexual fantasies that you would never actually try out in real life
  • have sex dreams
  • experience genital arousal
  • have a libido (sex drive), including a moderate or high libido
  • experience deep, intense, or passionate emotion
  • experience love (romantic or nonromantic) in a very emotional way
  • be willing or interested in experimenting with sex, to see what it’s like
  • enjoy flirting
  • support sexual freedom for other people

 

The only thing you need to figure out to determine if you’re asexual or not is the answer to the following questions:

Do you experience sexual attraction to other people? (Sexual attraction being an involuntary sexual interest in others/directed desire to have sex with other people.) Do you feel an innate need and/or desire for partnered sex that may or may not be expressed in attractions to a specific gender or genders?

If the answer to those questions is no, you are asexual. Nothing else is relevant to being asexual, one way or another.

Please note that a majority of asexuals are sex-repulsed, will not have sex, don’t want to or feel comfortable with having sex, and would experience sex as something distressing, traumatic, or boring. Some asexuals do not masturbate, have no sex drive, don’t experience orgasms, don’t experience arousal, have little to no sexual experience, and have never been sexually abused or assaulted.

The only thing all asexuals have in common with each other is not experiencing sexual attraction to other people or a need for partnered sex.

 

 

You Can Be Aromantic and Still:

  • want a primary partnership that involves commitment, prioritization, exclusivity, life enmeshment, cohabitation, etc
  • choose to participate in romantic relationships with people who are romantically interested in you
  • want or have kids
  • be a sexual person (straight, gay, bi, pan, queer)
  • practice polyamory or other forms of ethical nonmonogamy
  • get married, whether in the context of a romantic or nonromantic relationship
  • enjoy consuming romantic media (movies, TV shows, books, songs, stories, etc)
  • want and enjoy kissing, cuddling, hugs, holding hands, massages, co-sleeping, dancing, and other forms of nonsexual intimacy–whether with your friends in general or with a specific partner
  • experience deep, intense, passionate, and/or very emotional love
  • have strong and/or deep feelings in general
  • be sensitive
  • have gender preferences for nonromantic/nonsexual partners and/or intimate friends
  • experience jealousy over your partner or your friends
  • have your heart broken
  • want to be important to other people
  • engage in emotional intimacy + desire emotional intimacy
  • have a mental illness
  • have a physical illness or disability
  • be a survivor of sexual assault
  • be a survivor of abusive romantic relationships
  • want a monogamous queerplatonic partnership
  • enjoy flirting
  • enjoy giving or receiving gestures of love and affection, whether in friendship or partnership (including romantically-coded gestures, like flower bouquets or love poems and letters, etc)
  • be a warm, friendly, extroverted person
  • enjoy seeing other people in romantic relationships

 

The only thing you have to figure out to determine whether or not you’re aromantic is the answer to this question:

Do you feel romantic attraction to other people? Do you experience an involuntary desire or need to be in romantic relationships? Do you romantically fall in love with others, in a way that is distinct from other emotional attachments you form with friends and family?

If the answer to those questions is no, then you’re aromantic. Nothing else is relevant to aromanticism, one way or another.

Please note that many aromantics are romance-repulsed and cannot tolerate or really don’t enjoy being in romantic relationships or being the object of someone’s romantic attraction. Some don’t want any kind of partner at all. Some don’t want children and would never marry anyone in any context. Some don’t even want a queerplatonic friend/partner. Some aros hate physical affection, don’t experience strong emotion, and are introverted with a low need for social interaction.

The only thing that all aros have in common with each other is not experiencing romantic feelings or romantic love.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism, Sexuality

Response to Stormy, on Compromise Sex and Compulsory Sexuality

I want to recommend a post written about sexual compromise, by asexual and queer activist Stormy. She talks about some very personal and traumatic experiences she had in the past, regarding sex in romantic relationships with sexual people, and she brings up a fascinating and controversial viewpoint I want to discuss a little bit: that by definition, when an asexual person has compromise sex, it isn’t possible for them to actually consent. Compromise sex can never be consensual sex.

This, I know, is an unpopular view in the asexual community, but now that I’ve read it and thought about it, I believe Stormy’s really on to something here. We’re not talking about sex that aces have because they like it; a long time ago, I wrote about the falsehood of sexual “compromise” in mixed romantic relationships between aces and sexual people and pointed out that if you like what you’re doing, you’re not compromising at all. Stormy picked up on this too. What she’s saying is that:

“Consent is defined as an enthusiastic, uncoerced, sober “yes.” A compromise is something that is accepted, not wanted. It does not involve enthusiasm. By definition, it is not consent.  While many asexual activists disagree with me, I remind you: the definition of consent to sex does not involve compromise. Yes, aces can consent. They can have/love/want sex and still lack sexual attraction. But if an ace is compromising it is not consent.”

We’re talking about the asexuals who really don’t like or feel comfortable with sex at all but who force themselves to do it anyway because they feel pressured or because they’ve been brainwashed into believing that sex is mandatory in romantic relationships. I think we may also be talking about asexuals who are, for all intents and purposes, completely neutral about participating in sex and who could happily live without it forever and often don’t get any personal gratification from doing it, who do it on a routine basis for the sole reason that they’re dating someone who will only date them if the ace puts out regularly.

If we run with Stormy’s interpretation of consent vs. compromise in sexual situations, compromise sex (I still fucking HATE that term and think it’s totally inaccurate) performed by asexuals enters into an ethical gray-area and highlights the fact that consent is not as simple as many people want to make it out to be. If compromise sex is not consensual, does that mean it’s rape? Or a kind of sexual assault? Even if the ace technically doesn’t resist, allows it to happen, even says “okay” or “yes”? Is there actually a category of sex that is neither fully consensual nor rape, that asexuals have exclusive experience with?

I’m not sure what the answers to those questions are, but I do know this: if you have sex that makes you cry afterward, that makes you feel horrible emotionally, that feels like trauma when you look back on it, that’s a problem. And that can’t be in the same category as mutually enthusiastic, consensual sex between two people who are totally into it together.

The following is the most important takeaway from Stormy’s post, as far as I’m concerned:

“The asexual community’s advocacy for sexual compromise is rooted in internalized acephobia. When we encourage people to engage in sexual compromise we are encouraging them to ignore their needs. We are saying that their needs, as an asexual person, are not as important as the needs of a “normal” allosexual. We’re asserting that affirmative consent is a luxury only allosexuals may have.”

I’ve made my position clear on this blog before, on the subject of asexuals having sex, but I can never repeat myself too many times. Sex is never mandatory. Sex is never an obligation. No one is ever entitled to sex, with anybody else, not even in romantic relationships. You can be raped and sexually assaulted in romantic relationships, because a romantic relationship is not representative of ongoing sexual consent. You always have the right to say “no” to sex, even in romantic relationships. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a selfish partner. Your body is your property, and you are the only one with authority over it. You get to decide if your body is touched and how it’s touched and by whom.

We live in a society where compulsory sexuality is a widespread paradigm: we’re all supposed to have sex, we’re supposed to want it, and we’re supposed to have sex in romantic relationships specifically. Compulsory sexuality means that you have to find a reason NOT to have sex, instead of finding a reason to do it. Doing it is the default. It’s the norm. Not wanting to do it isn’t a satisfactory explanation for saying “no,” because we’re all expected to want it. Compulsory sexuality is the reason that asexuals, particularly the long-term celibates, and anyone who’s sex-repulsed are frequently pathologized and dehumanized. Compulsory sexuality is the reason asexuals are considered abnormal, broken, deficient, etc.

I’ve seen and heard of a lot of asexuals spouting this unconditional sexual compromise bullshit for a while now, and I can’t tell you how tired I am of it. I’m tired of seeing other aces–and there are new ones coming into the community every day, many of them young people in their teens and early 20s–talking as if it’s their job to figure out how to please sexual people in romantic relationships. I’m tired of hearing about aces who have sex, because most of them don’t like or don’t want it or ideally would never have it, and even if they’re not suffering major emotional and psychological distress because of their sexual activity, they’re still just doing it because they think they have to. To be normal, to be a good romantic partner, to make someone else happy, etc. And I’m fucking appalled by asexuals who tell other asexuals to have sex, to just suck it up and do it for the sake of romance.

Stormy’s right. Everybody, asexuals and sexual people alike, take for granted that the needs and desires of sexual people always and unconditionally come first and are more important than what asexuals want and need and feel. Fuck that. That’s bullshit.

Here’s an earth-shattering newsflash: sexual people can be celibate. Sexual people are just as physically capable of living without sex, as an asexual is of having it. And in fact, more often than they want to admit, it’s emotionally and psychologically easier for sexual people to go without sex than it is for asexuals to do it. But of course, they’re not going to give shit up, unless aces actually draw that boundary and stick to it. I’m not saying that sexual people who need sex to be happy in life should become celibate to please an ace–frankly, I think unless both people are joyful in a romantic relationship, you shouldn’t fucking be together at all, and the reality is, most mixed romantic relationships between aces and sexual people aren’t mutually joyful no matter what the sex situation’s like–but I am saying that it’s total Bullshit for anyone to believe that the sexual sacrifice in mixed romances always falls on the asexual person. It’s Bullshit that so many mixed couples default to the asexual having sex, instead of the sexual person becoming celibate. It’s bullshit that sexual people assume that it’s the ace who has to sacrifice to please them, instead of the other way around.

So, no, romantic aces of the world, you don’t have to have sex. Ever. With anyone. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t do it. You have the right to sit down with a potential romantic interest and say, “Look, if we become a couple, I don’t want to have sex with you. Either you can accept that or walk away, but that’s my boundary.”

Will that narrow your dating pool? Yeah. It will. But you know what? You shouldn’t have to be someone you’re not, just to keep a romantic partner. You shouldn’t have to do something that makes you feel bad, just to keep a romantic partner. It’s not worth it. Don’t be so desperate for romance, that you fail to show yourself respect and love. You should care more about yourself than you do about other people accepting you, liking you, approving of you, and dating you.

There are people you can date who also want nonsexual romance. You just have to be patient and hold out for them.

And you have to recognize that just because you have feelings for someone, doesn’t mean you ought to be with them. Romantic love is not sufficient by itself. It doesn’t make up for incompatibility. It doesn’t mean a relationship is right for you. It’s just a feeling. And contrary to pop culture, there’s nothing cute about making stupid or toxic decisions in the name of romantic feelings. You just end up hurting yourself and maybe others and doing shit you regret. (And you still break up, in the end.)

 

1 Comment

Filed under Asexual Politics, Celibate Asexuality, Love & Relationships, Sexuality

Donations

I’ve added a Paypal Donate button to the sidebar on the blog’s homepage. If you feel inspired to make a donation, that’s cool, and if you don’t, that’s cool too. There’s no pressure. I’m making it an option for my regular readers, in case any of you have some money to burn and want to send some of it my way as a show of appreciation.

Whether you donate or not, thanks for reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Re: Men in Queerplatonic Friendships

This is for the person (or people?) who found my blog by searching about two men in a queerplatonic relationship or an aromantic guy being able to be in a QP relationship.

 

I know that online, aromantic and asexual spaces seem to be dominated by women and FAAB genderqueer people, but:

  • Yes, there are aromantic men, of every sexual orientation.
  • Yes, an aro man can want or have a queerplatonic friendship/partnership/relationship.
  • Yes, two men can have a queerplatonic friendship. Two men can also have a passionate friendship, a romantic friendship, a primary nonromantic partnership, or any other kind of relationship you can think of. They don’t have to be asexual or aromantic or both.
  • This is your reminder that wanting or having a same-sex QP relationship or friendship, a passionate friendship, a romantic friendship, a primary nonromantic partnership, etc does NOT make a man gay, bisexual, or queer. Men who are homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, or otherwise queer and sexual can have these nonromantic relationships/friendships with other men, but it isn’t the friendship that makes them gay, bi, queer, etc. Your sexual orientation is determined only by your sexual attractions (and romantic attractions, if you’re romantic). If you view your desire for a QP friendship or your actual QP friendship as queer or as part of your queer/gay/bi/pan identity, that’s cool, but you don’t have to. A heterosexual man who has or wants a queerplatonic friendship, passionate friendship, romantic friendship, or primary platonic partnership with another man is still heterosexual. I don’t care if you kiss your male friend before you go to sleep every night. Without sexual or romantic feelings, your friendship is no more gay or queer than it would be straight if your friend was a woman. And wanting or having this kind of friendship with another man doesn’t negate your sexual attraction to women, if you experience it.
  • Aromantic people can have gender preferences for who they form queerplatonic relationships with, for a variety of reasons. If you’re an aro man who prefers to be close to other men nonromantically and nonsexually, that is not a reflection on your sexual or romantic orientations.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism, Love & Relationships

Political Lesbianism from an Aromantic Asexual Perspective

I want to talk about political or voluntary lesbianism. This is a concept that emerged from second wave, radical feminism in the 1960s and continues to exist as a practice and a philosophy in those feminist circles today. Essentially, political lesbianism is heterosexual women rejecting heterosexual relationships with men and in many cases, forming romantic and/or sexual relationships with women by choice, because heterosexuality is incompatible with their feminist politics.

The debate about political lesbianism stems from the perception of sexual orientation as natural, involuntary, and innate vs. a lifestyle choice. In America, the most popular view of human sexuality is the 20th century Western model that suggests your sexual desires and attractions are an involuntary part of who you are and cannot be changed willingly or even unwillingly. Not everyone even accepts that sexual fluidity is real; they write off an adult change in sexuality as the person in question repressing their true orientation in early life only to come out later on or never having been really gay in the first place. Hell, there are a lot of heterosexuals AND homosexuals who still can’t accept that bisexuality is a real, legitimate orientation because they’re so attached to the idea of the straight/gay permanent orientation binary.

Born lesbians and many heterosexual women alike are deeply critical of political or voluntary lesbianism as a concept because they see it as undermining of innate homosexuality, appropriating lesbian identity from women who cannot choose to be anything other than gay or escape the social consequences of homophobia and heterosexism, and a choice rooted in the hatred and fear of men rather than the love of women. I think that lesbians who were born gay or who feel intrinsically gay have a right to be skeptical and even critical of born heterosexual women who want to choose lesbianism or identify as lesbian, but I also think that there are ways to be a voluntary lesbian that are valid. I also tend to feel that this popular model of human sexuality so many Americans buy into—of sexual orientation being innate, involuntary, and fixed—is problematic and certainly not the best or the only model.

Just to be clear, I am not a radical feminist, and I do disagree with the problematic behavior and beliefs of some radfems, particularly transmisogyny. But I do think that it’s possible for a woman to be a voluntary lesbian or a political lesbian outside of radical feminism, and I want to talk about voluntary/political lesbianism as an aromantic asexual outside of the radical feminist framework but within the broader context of feminism and female empowerment.

How do we define lesbianism? Is a woman a lesbian by sexual activity alone? Do we require of lesbians both sexual and romantic attraction to other women? Is it only about who she’s attracted to and not who she actually fucks and dates? Is she defined as lesbian by her romantic feelings and relationships primarily, regardless of sexual activity? Or is lesbianism broad enough to include any kind of woman-centric intimacy and lifestyle lived by women?

Do the following women qualify as lesbians, if they want to use that identity?

- Homoromantic heterosexual women who only fall in love with and date women, while only being sexually attracted to and involved with men
– Hetero-romantic homosexual women who only fall in love with and date men, while only being sexually attracted to and involved with women
– Homoromantic asexual women (particularly the sex-repulsed, celibate women)
– Aromantic asexual women who prefer to bond, partner, and be intimate with other women exclusively or predominantly
– Aromantic homosexual women who want to fuck women but don’t fall in love with anyone and often don’t have actual romantic relationships with sexual partners or with anyone
– Homosexual women who end up falling in love with a man in an isolated case

When political lesbianism first became a thing in the feminist movement back in the 60s, nobody knew or talked about these groups of people or these experiences of sex, romance, relationships, love, and friendship. For the longest time, the world viewed sexuality in black and white terms: heterosexual and homosexual. As I said before, bisexuality is STILL getting the shaft in both straight and gay spaces, and it’s almost 2015. Asexuality only came on the scene a little over 10 years ago, in the early 2000s, and aromanticism is still virtually unknown outside of the asexual community and a small handful of online queer spaces. So already, we can know that both the promotion and the critique of political or voluntary lesbianism have taken place with incomplete information about human sexuality and relationships.

It’s become public knowledge to some degree in the last several years that women can be late-blooming lesbians: living the first third to half of their lives as heterosexuals and suddenly experiencing a change in their orientation, falling in love with another woman and feeling sexual desire for her. These women leave behind their husbands or long-time male sexual partners and go forward to live in romantic-sexual relationships with other women. They do not feel or identify as bisexual. They do not feel simultaneously attracted to men and women through life or after their same-sex attraction kicks in. They were born straight and now feel gay. If their heterosexual history doesn’t invalidate their present lesbian reality, why should a voluntary lesbian’s heterosexuality matter? If a woman chooses to live with another woman in a committed, intentional way and to make that woman her primary partner in life, why does it matter if she lacks sexual and/or romantic attraction to her? Don’t get me wrong, a straight woman can choose to make another woman her primary partner without identifying as a lesbian and without fucking her, but if she does want to see herself or present herself to the world as lesbian, why shouldn’t she be able to?

More importantly, why should heterosexual women be obligated to only have heterosexual relationships? Sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily correspond with emotional bonding, one’s personal sense of comfort and safety, overall compatibility, lifestyle preferences, relationship desires, etc. Just because you want to fuck men doesn’t mean you can find a man who is an adequate match to you overall when it comes to partnership. Just because you want to fuck men doesn’t mean you feel emotionally satisfied by them. Just because you like fucking men doesn’t mean you feel safe and secure in relationships with men. Who you like to fuck and who’s good for you as a domestic, emotional, financial, creative, political, and even professional partner are not automatically one in the same. There is a basis for some heterosexual women finding greater happiness with other women than with men, whether their relationships with women are sexual, romantic, or neither. As I understand it, true political or voluntary lesbianism isn’t about hating or fearing all men necessarily but it is about feeling a greater, deeper resonance with other women regardless of your sexual orientation and deciding to let your emotional and intellectual desires and needs lead your relationship building instead of your sexuality.

It sounds like gay women who are critical of political lesbians often assume that political lesbians don’t actually want or enjoy having sex with other women. I’m sure it doesn’t help that political lesbianism was originally defined as “women who don’t have sex with men,” meaning that actually having sex with other women was always optional for political lesbians, not mandatory. However, what little research I’ve done on political lesbianism makes it clear to me that political lesbians who have gay sex can and do enjoy it; why would they keep doing it if they didn’t? Any two people can have sex without attraction to each other, and asexuals prove this on a regular basis. No matter what the gender of the ace is and what the gender of their partner is, an asexual who fucks someone is not sexually attracted to their partner. Yet this lack of attraction and sexual desire alone doesn’t stop the asexual from experiencing physical pleasure during sex. (Not all aces experience sexual pleasure, but some do.) A heterosexual woman who becomes a voluntary or political lesbian can absolutely experience sexual pleasure with other women. Even if she is not sexually or romantically attracted to her partners, gay sex can be emotionally and physically pleasurable for her. This doesn’t mean that voluntary lesbians are obligated to have sex with other women—because again, lesbianism doesn’t have to be defined by sex—but it means that voluntary/political lesbians can and might choose to have sex with a female partner for emotional bonding and/or sexual satisfaction.

And I cannot stress enough that voluntary lesbianism might be an act of self-love and healing for heterosexual women who are survivors of rape and sexual assault by men. These women may not be able to help feeling sexual attraction toward men, but they also may feel repulsed by sex with men or at the very least unsafe and uncomfortable with it. These women should not force themselves to perform heterosexual sex or heterosexual relationships just because their orientation is heterosexual. If they don’t want to be celibate forever or if they still feel like sexual beings following their assaults but they don’t want to have sex with men again, voluntary lesbianism can be the only thing that makes sense for them.

That said, I don’t think you can criticize voluntary lesbianism as irredeemably problematic without believing that sexual identity is based only on who you want to fuck and nothing else. Not even who you fall in love with, whatever that means to you. Just sex. And from what I’ve learned about lesbians as people, as women, and as loving beings, that genital-sex-based definition of lesbianism just doesn’t cut it. There are a lot of lesbians who are sexually attracted to women but who don’t actually like sex. There are a lot of lesbian relationships that start out sexual and end up becoming totally nonsexual. There are a lot of lesbians who may actually in fact be homoromantic asexuals and not homosexual at all; they just don’t know it because they don’t know asexuality is an orientation. Yes, these women all have an innate attraction to women in common, whether it’s sexual or romantic or both, and that attraction exists even if they don’t have or like sex. But even if you want to argue that attraction, not sexual activity, defines real lesbians, I have to challenge you: why is it only sexual and/or romantic attraction that counts?

Well, I can answer my own question: amatonormativity, romance supremacy, compulsory sexuality, and sex supremacy. These beliefs that romance is superior to nonromantic love and friendship, that sexual relationships are superior and more valuable than nonsexual relationships, that all people want and should have a primary romantic-sexual partnership, and that sex is mandatory in life, in romance, and in your central relationship(s).

Take into account gray-area feelings and friendships: those which fall somewhere in between normative friendliness and normative romance, those which are too ambiguous to be comfortably boxed in one category, those which may even be hard for the people experiencing them to define. Consider that these feelings and friendships can happen to someone in contradiction to their sexual and romantic orientations: a heterosexual woman could have a friendship or feelings with another woman that are not sexual and yet which oversteps common nonromantic friendship without clearly falling into romantic relationship territory as she understands it. We as a society don’t talk about these feelings or friendships. We have no language to talk about them, unless we refer to the vocabulary that asexuals and aromantics have constructed recently. Yet these feelings and friendships can and do exist, even if they’re rare.

Now, if you’re of the romance and sex supremacist persuasion, you’ll want to say that these friendships don’t count because friendship in general doesn’t count. If you’re not fucking and you’re not dating or in love, whatever you feel or have is unimportant; it’s JUST friendship. But as an aromantic asexual who feels and desires love and significant relationships, I take major issue with that attitude.

I don’t think that aromantic or asexual relationships should be sexualized and romanticized, even linguistically. I sure as hell don’t want alternative friendships and nonromantic/nonsexual partnerships to be sexualized and romanticized by society and stuck into the gay/straight binary of relationships. I take major issue with that shit. Friendship is not straight or gay or queer. Aromantic asexuals are not straight or gay or queer, unless they choose to pick up those labels. Nonromantic, nonsexual love and relationships are exactly that: nonromantic and nonsexual. Not gay or straight. But I want these relationships to be recognized as serious, valid, and equivalent to romantic/sexual relationships, especially when they function as primary partnerships.

If romantic-sexual people have any choice in how they organize their personal relationships, if they have any power whatsoever to choose a nonromantic/nonsexual relationship as their primary or central partnership instead of a romantic/sexual relationship, they aren’t going to start making those choices until nonromantic/nonsexual partnerships are culturally validated and accepted as equally good and serious to romantic/sexual relationships. And regardless of what romantic-sexual people do, aromantics and asexuals are already here, wanting and needing our relationships and our identities to be taken seriously.

In terms of voluntary or political lesbianism, asexuals and aromantics can absolutely have a gender preference for who they become intimate with that has nothing to do with sexual and/or romantic attraction. That’s why I dislike critics of political or voluntary lesbianism saying that “gay by choice” is an insult to the real queers—not because sexual attraction is a choice but because relationships are. For aromantic asexuals, who we love and commit to and prioritize, who we live with, become intimate with emotionally and even physically, is ALWAYS a choice. Not something we’re compelled to via attraction. If you allow your sexual and romantic attractions to determine who you pursue romantic, sexual, and/or central relationships with, that’s fine, but invalidating relationships that are chosen without attraction is invalidating all relationships that aromantics, asexuals, and especially aromantic asexuals have. Aromantic asexual women choose partners or queerplatonic friends based on emotional connection, comfort level, relationship goals and style, common interests, etc. Not sexual attraction. Not romantic attraction.

I’ve seen and heard of SO MANY aromantic asexual women who strongly prefer to be intimate with other women and who are least interested in cis men. And yes, a lot of that has to do with feminism, gender inequality, sexism, and the fact that a lot of cis men are violent, oppressive, abusive, and generally terrible to women—in general and especially in intimate relationships. A lot of that has to do with aro ace women being afraid of cis men raping them or sexually assaulting and harassing them, if the men are straight; if that abuse happens to heteroromantic asexual women, it can happen to aro ace women even outside of romantic relationships. I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that once you take away romantic and sexual desire for men from a woman, she is a lot more likely to see that she has more in common with other women, can have a more emotionally satisfying relationship with a woman vs. a man, and has little to gain from men that she can’t have with women.

Additionally, aromantic heterosexual women can choose to center nonsexual relationships with other women in their lives, instead of the men they fuck, because they feel more emotionally connected to their female friends, they might be romance repulsed and actively avoid romantic relationships with men for that reason, or they may simply want a nonsexual queerplatonic partnership and find it easier to pursue that with a woman who doesn’t want sex or romance from them.

So I really get where some of these political lesbians are coming from. I get it. I grew up feeling more interested in and drawn to men despite all my close friendships being with other girls, experiencing more emotionally intense love and desire for men, and imagining my life partner as a man. I went through a period where I assumed I was hetero-romantic. I’m still someone who is strongly drawn to masculinity, who is a masculine person, and who likes to emulate conventionally masculine men stylistically and personality-wise. But now, I’m finding myself more drawn to the idea of being intimately connected to women. I’m appreciating and admiring women more. I’ve become open to experiencing intimacy, love, and touch with women in all the same ways I’ve long been interested in experiencing those things with men. I want a female domestic life partner as much as I want a male domestic life partner. Now, I want all the same cuddling, hugging, caressing, kissing, etc in my partnership with a woman that I want with a man, and I am interested in that physical intimacy with female friends in general (along with male friends). I grew up, deconstructed the heterosexism and queerphobia that I internalized as a child, became a feminist, did a lot of reflecting, and realized that as a female-born nonbinary butch person and an aromantic asexual and someone with my particular spiritual, emotional, political, and intellectual leanings and desires, I am far more likely to find women who are compatible and satisfying companions than I am to find men. I’m still capable of loving and bonding with men, and I still want to love and bond with men. But I can now see my intimate relationships with women outnumbering my intimate relationships with men in the future and I’m not just okay with that, I think it’s a great thing.

None of this means that aro ace women or aro heterosexual women should identify as lesbians if they don’t want to or be viewed as lesbians against their will, but it does mean that there is valid reason for a woman who isn’t homosexual to center relationships with other women instead of with men.

Aromantic asexual women who choose to partner with other women will be read as lesbians by society, whether they like it or not and whether they declare it or not. Their partnerships and queerplatonic friendships will be read as romantic and sexual, whether they are or not, because of the amatonormativity paradigm and compulsory sexuality and this idea that only romantic-sexual relationships can be central partnerships. Two women who commit to each other, prioritize their relationship above all others, who live together and go through life as a team, will be considered romantically and sexually coupled by society unless they publicly and continuously reject that reading by identifying their relationship as nonromantic and nonsexual. And realistically, how many people in that situation are going to go through the trouble of telling everyone they know and people they don’t know that they aren’t fucking or romantically in love?

This default romantic-sexual reading of central relationships is super problematic and annoying, and I want it to become defunct. But until it does, the reality is that two women having a central partnership with each other will be considered lesbians, whether they identify themselves that way or not, and that reading is something that socially conscious women are surely aware of when they decide to enter into a central partnership with another woman, even if it’s nonsexual and/or nonromantic. If you are an aromantic woman or an asexual woman or any woman who chooses to pursue central or primary relationships with other women, you are accepting a kind of de facto lesbian identity, even without specifically IDing yourself that way to others. So in a way, you don’t have to come out or use the label “lesbian” to be a voluntary lesbian. You don’t even have to believe in political lesbianism to be a voluntary lesbian. You just have to be a woman who chooses to make another woman your partner, whether you fuck her or feel romantically toward her or not.

We can’t change our sexual attractions and romantic attractions voluntarily, but we can choose how to live, how to build relationships, and who to build them with. We are not and shouldn’t be slaves to our attractions, especially if they are at odds with our well-being. Being intimate with or prioritizing other women instead of men might be in the best interests of a woman despite her heterosexual orientation. As an expression of feminism or simply because of the fact that being close to other women is safer, features equality between herself and her partner, and is more likely to give her respect, political or voluntary lesbianism is a valid choice for non-homosexual women and one that shouldn’t invalidate or reflect upon homosexual women.

 

Political Lesbian Perspectives:

Political Lesbian Myth Busting

Radical Lesbian Feminism or Political Lesbianism in 2012

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism, Asexual Politics, Love & Relationships, Sexuality

The Shifting Meanings of Physical Intimacy and Touch

I’ve pointed out many times before that most sexual people view most physical touch as exclusively sexual and/or romantic, regardless of whether the touching involves actual sex or genitalia, and how this is harmful, limiting, and frustrating for asexuals and anyone who wants nonsexual, nonromantic physical affection in their life. I’ve also mentioned the disparity between what the average sexual person assumes about asexuals and physicality, versus what asexuals actually feel and think about physicality, due to sexual people’s unawareness of nonsexual physical intimacy and touch. It’s pretty common for sexual people who know nothing about asexuality to assume that asexuals don’t want or like any physical intimacy or affection, beyond the casual friendly hug, and they make this assumption because from their perspective, even the nonsexual/nongenital acts on the spectrum of physical intimacy is ultimately sexual in nature or potentially sexual because they lead to sex and are only of interest in the context of sexual attraction.

This is why, for example, a lot of heterosexual men will only cuddle or hold hands with women. Cuddling or holding hands are not sex acts, they do not involve genital contact or orgasm, they do not require sexual or romantic attraction to be performed, and yet these straight men would never think about experimenting with this kind of physical affection in their friendships with other men or even with women they aren’t sexually/romantically interested in. Part of this has to do with the stigma against homosexuality, but that couldn’t even be an issue at play if not for the fact that people are coding these nongenital physical interactions as implicitly sexual and/or romantic in the first place. My problem is with that basic implication, not so much with the heterosexism.

I think a lot of sexual people have been or would be surprised to learn, then, that a lot of asexuals are very physical people–whether in romantic relationships or in general–and that some of us want and can appreciate physical intimacy that is not just affectionate but sensual. For example, I’m very open and interested in exploring physical, sensual encounters that involve bare skin, a great degree of bodily closeness and touching, and a lot of emotional intimacy–and I know that, that would confuse a lot of sexual people not just because they see that kind of physicality as foreplay leading up to sex (and if it doesn’t lead to sex, what’s the point?) but because some of them actually see that kind of physical intimacy as “sex.”  They personally can’t separate sensual physicality from genital sex, so all of it gets boxed into the broad term of “sex.”

This is weird to me. I understand using nongenital physical intimacy as foreplay in actual sexual contexts or as supplemental to sex in a romantic-sexual relationship, but I don’t understand sexualizing and romanticizing nongenital touch to a point that it can’t happen in your life, unless it’s connected to sex. I’ve always thought, since I was a child, that it was really sick and fucked up that our culture sexualizes (and romanticizes) physical intimacy so much, that most of it is off-limits in friendships and family relationships and so many straight people refuse to integrate physical affection into their same-sex friendships because they don’t want to appear gay. I have a better understanding now of the dynamics at play behind the situation, like the physical touch escalator and sexualizing/romanticizing touch in the interest of romance and sex supremacy. But on some very personal level, the whole thing still baffles me.

I’m deeply convinced that if we lived in a world where people had much greater freedom to share physical affection and intimacy in nonsexual and nonromantic contexts, with friends and family members, there would be a dramatically higher rate of overall happiness, sense of security, emotional well-being, etc. I believe that it would create more meaningful, more emotional, and more loving friendships and family relationships. I believe it would bond people more closely and intensely. I believe that it would take a lot of the desperation for sex and romance away from romantic/sexual people who are single. If we, as a society, saw touch as caring, loving, and nurturing–not sexual or romantic–we would be free to experience it a lot more often, with a wider variety of people, regardless of sexual orientation or romantic status or whether we were monogamous vs. polyamorous. The benefits would be amazing, and I frankly can’t see any downsides.

I can see the logic of viewing nongenital physical intimacy as sexually coded if you’re someone who can’t avoid becoming sexually aroused by physical intimacy or if you’re uncomfortable being physical with anyone outside of sexual and/or romantic contexts. But that’s your individual experience, not something you should project onto other people or on touch between humans in general. Just because you only want to be physically intimate/affectionate with people you want to fuck, doesn’t mean that all human beings connect nonsexual physical intimacy to sex. Or romance.

So wanting to cuddle, hug, co-sleep with, massage, even kiss someone doesn’t make you gay or straight or bisexual.

It doesn’t make you sexual at all. It doesn’t make you romantic, either.

What makes you sexual is sexual attraction to others and a desire, a need, for partnered sex. What makes you straight, gay, bi, or pan is your desire for sex with a certain gender or genders. What makes you romantic is your ability to fall in romantic love with people and your desire for romantic relationships, whatever that means to you.

You can be a very physical, sensual asexual or aromantic person. You can want to cuddle, kiss, hug, caress, hold hands, share a bed with someone and simultaneously have no sexual interest in them and/or no romantic feelings.

I have to remind you that arousal never obligates anyone to have sex: some asexuals can actually get aroused during cuddling or kissing or being physically intimate but that doesn’t mean they want to have sex or that they SHOULD have sex. Arousal is an involuntary physiological reaction. We can’t control what arouses us, when we become aroused, etc, and the body doesn’t always get aroused because of sexual stimuli. Arousal can happen for a variety of reasons. It can happen despite a person’s cognitive wishes and feelings in the moment. Just because you get aroused, doesn’t mean you have to do something about it. I think that’s a pretty radical idea for a lot of sexual people, especially cismen. If you’re cuddling with a friend you don’t want to fuck and you get turned on, you don’t have to take the cuddling into a sexual direction. You can stop cuddling if the arousal makes you uncomfortable, but you could also just ignore it and wait for it to go away. Arousal isn’t even always an indication of sexual attraction; it can happen just because you’re touched or touching someone in a certain way, without any sexual feelings or attraction at all.

 

Here’s how I categorize touch:

 

Sensual, Not Sexual Physicality

hugging

cuddling, with clothes on

cuddling, with clothes off (typically, with underwear still on)

caressing and stroking the body, over clothing or under clothes/without clothes on

massages

kissing the body (excluding the genital region and possibly breasts)

kissing the mouth (close-mouthed, no tongue)

kissing the mouth (open-mouthed, with or without tongue)

dancing together

nuzzling

playing with hair

scratching

biting

sleeping in the same bed (or one sofa, close together on the floor, etc)

 

Sex

penetrative genital sex (vaginal or anal)

oral sex (vaginal, anal, and blowjobs)

manual sex (stimulating genitals with hands and fingers)

using sex toys on genitals

dry humping genitals against each other’s body, clothed or unclothed

mutual masturbation (two people masturbating in each other’s presence without touching each other’s genitals)

engaging in kinks and fetishes that are genitally arousing and pleasurable

 

I would say that the sensual, nongenital forms of physical intimacy and touch can be sexually-coded or erotic, but only if and when there is sexual attraction and desire going on between the two people sharing it or in the person who is offering or requesting the touch. The same goes for whether they are romantic gestures or not. It isn’t the actual behavior that is sexual or romantic; it’s the intent, the feelings, the attraction motivating the behavior.

So, from where I’m standing, as a celibate asexual and aromantic-spectrum person who doesn’t want to have sex with anyone, most of the stuff I listed in the sensual/nonsexual category is stuff that I can do in nonsexual, nonromantic relationships. Most of that stuff, I actually really like and enjoy and want regular access to. And to make it more interesting: I’m only comfortable being very physical with someone if I know that the touch and intimacy is nonsexual and nonromantic for them too. Maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise–why would I want to be involved with someone who wants to fuck me and date me, if I’m an aromantic asexual?–but a lot of other asexuals actually only want or participate in physical intimacy with romantic/sexual partners, who they’re having sex with. For many romantic aces, physical intimacy and sensuality is romantic in nature and they wouldn’t do it with friends. I’m just the opposite: I only want to be physically intimate and sensual with friends who love me nonromantically and preferably who are not sexually interested in me at all.

Physical, sensual intimacy and touch feels loving, close, affectionate, beautiful, emotional, and even passionate to me–in the right context–but it doesn’t feel sexual or romantic. At most, it can have an erotic energy, but that energy is not exclusively or inevitably linked to genital sex in my eyes. I can’t describe how I know it isn’t sexual or romantic, because it’s a feeling–and all feelings are ultimately indescribable. I just know, internally and viscerally. I can feel the difference between my nonsexual, nonromantic energy and someone else’s romantic, sexual energy. Romantic or sexual energy directed at me freaks me out, turns me off, sends me running in the opposite direction. It isn’t a safe context in which to be physically intimate with someone, especially in a way that is so emotionally open and intense, for me. The behaviors could be exactly the same, with or without romantic/sexual energy, but they feel different based on that attraction, intention, desire, etc.

It’s the difference between: “This person wants to be physically intimate with me because they’re my friend and they love me.”

And, “This person wants to be physically intimate with me because they want to fuck me and/or date me and have a romantic relationship.”

From my perspective, if I desire physical intimacy with someone, I’m always coming from the first perspective. I want to cuddle with you, hug you, kiss you, touch you, etc because I love you (nonromantically) or feel emotionally attracted to you and want to be closer to you. I don’t want to fuck you, and I sure as hell don’t want to date you or be romantically involved with you in any way. My touch is not a means to those ends, nor is it an expression of those kinds of feelings.

I know that for a lot of romantic-sexual people (and some romantic asexuals + aromantic sexual people), the idea of heavily sensual physical intimacy being totally nonromantic and nonsexual will never totally compute because it is so unlike their own experience, but I hope they eventually come to accept that touch and physical intimacy can work differently for people who don’t experience sexual and/or romantic attraction and desire.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A Second Response to rotten-zucchinis, on Cupioromanticism and Romance

rotten-zucchinis went through the trouble of responding to my post that I wrote to them regarding cupioromanticism. Their posts are quite lengthy, but feel free to read them:

Part 1

Part 2

Summary of Both Parts

 

I actually think that they did quite an impressive job, particularly in Part 2, of making a case for their belief that cupioromanticism exists based on the premise that romantic attraction, romantic feelings, and romantic love are all different things that can exist independently of each other. I admire their logic and their thoroughness.

I still disagree. I don’t think romantic attraction and romantic feelings are two different experiences, nor do I believe that you can have romantic feelings for someone you’re not romantically attracted to or vice versa. I do believe you can be attracted to someone romantically without loving them, but I don’t think you can romantically love someone you are not and never was romantically attracted to. I wasn’t contradicting myself in my original response to you, when I switched between romantic attraction and romantic feelings; I was using the terms interchangeably because they’re the same thing.

Until you or someone else can provide satisfactory and sound definitions of romantic attraction and romantic feelings, as two separate experiences, and prove that they are both different and can exist independently of each other, I’m not buying that someone aromantic can feel romantic love, have romantic feelings, or want romantic relationships based on an ability to tell an emotional difference between romantic relationships and nonromantic/queerplatonic partnerships. I do agree that certain behaviors and contexts can be situationally imbued with romantic overtones, but I think that’s only possible if at least one person in the situation has romantic feelings for the other person and is performing behaviors from that romantic place. I can give a bouquet of red roses to a friend or receive red roses from a friend I know loves me nonromantically, and that does not feel romantic to me at all, despite the gesture being romantically coded in our culture. If the roses came to me from someone who was romantically attracted to me, then it would be a romantic gesture, and I would invariably feel uncomfortable with it. It’s never the action or behavior itself that is “romantic” or nonromantic. It’s the feeling and intent behind it, the presence or absence of attraction.

I am not erasing people’s experiences so much as I am asking them to prove that the interpretation they currently make about their experiences is accurate and not misguided, mislabeled, or misunderstood based on amatonormative, romance supremacist premises that are false to begin with. Bring me alloromantics who think that romantic attraction and romantic feelings are two different things and can exist independently of each other, bring me alloromantics who believe romantic love can exist without romantic attraction, and bring me self-identified cupioromantics who think they have romantic feelings for people they aren’t romantically attracted to or that romantic relationships can actually exist without at least one person in them feeling romantic attraction and performing the romantic relationship in a traditional way that rests on the idea that certain feelings and behaviors are exclusively, innately “romantic” and can only happen in romantic relationships (which is false), and make sure that they can actually explain and prove that those beliefs are not only sound but have no basis whatsoever on any problematic assumption about romantic vs. nonromantic relationships, love, behavior, etc. I’m not going to just take their word for it, not when the likelihood is that they think the way they do for twisted reasons. Prove that their views on this aren’t twisted, and then maybe I’ll consider accepting them.

I would like to add that I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with someone aromantic participating in “romantic” relationships with someone who is romantically attracted to them, especially if the aro in question is also sexual and finds that it’s easiest to have sexual relationships with people that also function as “romantic.” There is a difference, however, between an aro choosing to participate in romantic relationships because that relationship type offers them something they want that’s hard to access nonromantically, or because they don’t know they’re aro yet, or because they just sort of accidentally find themselves in a situation where someone they’re close to views them romantically, and an aro who actually WANTS to be in romantic relationships for no other reason than that they are romantic, both from their partner’s perspective and society’s. Either cupioromantics want romantic relationships for really problematic, toxic reasons or they’re not as aromantic as they claim to be. Whichever it is, I don’t see why this warrants a specified identity: gray-romantic/gray-aromantic already exists as a broad umbrella term for a variety of people whose experiences and desires fall somewhere between totally aromantic  and totally romantic. If you’re somewhere on the aromantic spectrum and it’s unclear where or how and if you also date people and get into romantic relationships, “gray-aromantic” exists for you. “Cupioromantic” is unnecessary, and the idea behind it is, even though so problematic that the identity itself shouldn’t exist, actually still sufficient enough to qualify as gray-romanticism.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism

Aromantics vs. Romantics: Nonromatic Love and Friendship

Earlier this year, I wrote a post exploring the theory that aromantic and asexual people might be capable of a unique type of nonromantic/nonsexual love. Since then, I’ve realized that I made an error in thinking that asexuality  had anything to do with it. It’s become clear to me that sex and a person’s sexual orientation are totally irrelevant to what kind of friend they are, their relationship style, and their capacity for this very particular nonromantic/nonsexual love.

Romanticism is the only thing relevant.

If I wrote that post today, the question would be: “Are aromantics capable of a unique nonromantic (and nonsexual) love, simply because they don’t experience romantic attraction and feelings?”

I have no idea how I missed it for so long, but somehow, I was sort of operating under this view that being asexual automatically made a person predisposed to not only valuing and prioritizing friendship over romantic relationships but also meant that they feel the kind of deep, compelling, emotionally intense love and attachment for friends that romantic-sexual people apparently don’t believe exists. I knew, on a superficial level, that aromantic sexual people are a thing and that obviously a lot of asexuals are technically romantic, whatever that means to them. But I made a very common false assumption: that somehow, asexuals as a group don’t really view “romantic” relationships, especially the nonsexual ones, the same way that romantic-sexual people view them, as significantly different than friendship and superior. I was thinking, funnily enough, like someone who’s aromantic and sexual and doesn’t realize it yet: basically believing that sex is the only difference between a deep, loving friendship and romance–and under those circumstances, an asexual who doesn’t have sex and never wants to couldn’t possibly see “romantic” relationships as markedly different and better than the very closest and deepest of friendships.

Don’t ask me why I went along for so many years, even while being super involved in asexual community dialogue, having this distorted perspective despite my regular exposure to self-proclaimed romantic aces and their explanations of how romantic attraction is something they feel that’s different than their nonromantic friendly feelings. I have no idea.

Anyway, now I’m clear on everything. Now, I realize that it’s romantic orientation that divides people who can and do prioritize friendship from people who don’t, people who want and can actually pull off committed primary friendship/queerplatonic partnership and people who don’t, people who make high quality serious friends and people who don’t. Now, I understand that aromantic people have more in common with each other, across the sexual orientation spectrum, than any of us have with romantics, including the ones who share our sexual orientation. Now, I understand that being asexual doesn’t make you any different or better, when it comes to friendship vs. romance, than the average romantic-sexual person. In fact, romantic asexuals can be just as bad as their sexual counterparts about expressing and acting out romance supremacy and amatanormativity. Aromantic aces have called them on their bullshit many times this year, especially in real world visibility and education efforts where romantic aces try to normalize themselves to the sexual public by pointing out that they can still romantically fall in love and want primary romantic relationships just like the romantic-sexual majority.

I’ve seen and heard romantic aces talk about love, relationships, partnership, and friendship in ways identical to their sexual counterparts. I’ve seen them make the same acknowledgements about romance being special and feeling so much more for romantic partners than friends, feeling closer to romantic interests, being more intimate with them, etc. I’ve seen romantic aces even openly say that they don’t experience love or much emotion in friendship at all, that friendship isn’t serious to them, that their friends are just people they hang out with for fun and distraction. None of this is any different then the shit romantic-sexual people and their mainstream culture espouse on a daily basis, isn’t any different than what I’ve seen and heard from romantic-sexual people on a personal level all my life.

The only difference between romantic asexuals and romantic-sexual people is whether they need and value sex or not. I used to think that a lot of romantic aces want so desperately to make a traditional romantic-sexual partnership work for them out of their desire for steady companionship and their need to be validated by the rest of the world, to be accepted and seen as normal by living the same way that romantic-sexual people do. Now, I know that the need for validation might apply to romantic aces forcing themselves into sex or settling for sexually active romantic relationships, but all the rest of it comes from the fact that as romantic people, they really are the same as romantic-sexual people. Friendship isn’t good enough for them, even if it looks identical to their idea of the perfect nonsexual romantic relationship, because on an emotional and psychological level, romance is superior. And because romance is superior to them and because so many of them do end up living like romantic-sexual people, romantic aces are just as likely to fuck off on their friends in favor of becoming totally absorbed in romance.

Meanwhile, aromantic sexual people can have all the sex in the universe, they can be highly promiscuous, they can have a dating history, they can view sex as an absolute need–but they are exponentially more likely to prioritize and value friendship over just about any other social experience. In fact, every aromantic sexual person I’ve found online so far has told me that friendship is more important to them than sex. They value their friends more than sex. They would rather give up sex than give up really satisfying friendships. If they have or want a nonsexual queerplatonic partner, they would never in a million years abandon that partner for sexual reasons. The ones who have had “romantic” relationships in the past or even in the present all say that their nonsexual, nonromantic friendships have always been more emotionally satisfying to them than their romantic-sexual relationships, which I think is fascinating. I’ve seen many aro sexual people express interest in finding a queerplatonic partner/friend–usually nonsexual–even if they could easily go out and find a sexual partner to “date” and be coupled with, even if they’ve done that in the past, and even if apart from the sex and the other person’s romantic attraction, the queerplatonic relationship would look just like those “romantic” relationships. I’ve received unanimous feedback from all of the aromantic sexual people I’ve talked to and asked who want or have nonsexual queerplatonic partners that their QP partner is hands down their #1 priority and source of emotional satisfaction, and sexual partners are secondary.

 

So basically, I–as an aromantic asexual–am WAY more likely to be valued, loved, and prioritized by an aromantic sexual person who needs sex the way they need food and water, than by a sex-repulsed, celibate, romantic asexual. I’m actually more likely to have a satisfying friendship with an aromantic sexual person than with a fellow celibate asexual, if the ace is romantic. A perma-single aro sexual person who has a very active sex life is going to be a more attentive, loving, caring, and loyal friend than an alloromantic asexual on the serial romantic relationship track, whether their romantic relationships are sexual or not.

I feel like I’ve been blindfolded all these years! Like, I got so caught up in the sex issue and making that the big difference between me and the whole sexual population, but the whole time, it was never sex that mattered at all. It was romance. It was never sex, by itself, that threatened or destroyed or prohibited intimate, loving, deep friendship. It was romance. It was never the sexuality of romantic-sexual people that separated me from them, in my values and desires for passionate/queerplatonic friendship. It was romance. And even if you take sex out of the equation, someone who feels romantic attraction and wants and needs romantic relationships, is still going to be emotionally unavailable for and disinterested in serious queerplatonic friendship, passionate friendship, and primary nonromantic partnerships. Not only unavailable but untrustworthy.  You don’t want to give a friendship your all, your whole heart, when the other person’s rigged like a spring to bail the minute romance comes along or to drop you without question if it serves their romantic relationship of the moment. You can’t trust someone with friendship, if they’re viewing it as intrinsically inferior and unimportant right out of the gate. And you sure as hell can’t rely on someone romantic to forgo romantic partnerships in order to follow through on a commitment they might’ve made to you, to be your queerplatonic partner, when they were single.

 

So now, in my own life, I set my sights on other aros for significant emotional friendships–whatever kind they might be–and consider sexuality of minimal importance. I’m not interested in fraternizing with romantic people. I don’t care if they’re sexual, asexual, coupled, single, celibate or sexually active. Someone who’s major social goal in life is to find their One True Romantic Love is not someone I want to be friends with. I feel simultaneously disconnected from much of the asexual community and comforted by all the relationship opportunities that have opened up by including aromantic sexual people on my radar. We don’t even know how many aromantic sexual people are out there; we have no stats whatsoever on them. Even if they’re only 1% of the sexual population, that’s still millions of people. In all likelihood, there are more aromantics in the sexual population than anybody imagines, and most of them are trying to live like romantic people because they don’t know they have a choice. They don’t know what aromanticism is or that it’s okay. It’s especially easy to be sucked into romantic-sexual relationships, when you’re having sex anyway, and your sexual partners are romantic and ask you to date. But more of them are going to find out they’re aro and more of them are going to quit romantic relationships. It’s only a matter of time.

In the recent Asexuality Census (the raw data currently available), 19% of asexual spectrum people identified as aromantic. That means approximately 600, 400 Americans are aro ace.  Add the 4.1% who identify as WTFromantic, and the number rises to 758, 400. (By the way, the 24% stat means there are about 16,800,000 aromantic asexuals worldwide!) Even if I ruled out aromantic sexual people, that’s still almost 1 million aros I have to choose from in my country alone, who I can be close friends with and trust with my love and friendship. But there have to be at least a million aromantic sexual people in the country. At least. Probably more.

 

I’ve been thinking about writing this follow-up post for a while now, and what finally got me to do it is another aromantic ace picking up on the very same theory: that romantics can’t feel the kind of nonromantic love that so many aros experience in friendship, not even just the primary/passionate friendship/partnership kind but unpartnered loving friendship in general. I don’t know if thatonearomantic was thinking only of romantic sexual people in their post or if they were talking about all romantic people, but I do know that these feelings are common amongst aros. Our bad experiences in mixed friendships with romantic people are common. And that affirms my decision to disqualify romantic people as potential friends–friends I love, not just people I’m friendly with–unless and until individual romantic people prove to me that they can be trusted and that they are deviant enough in their relationship style and their emotional nature to engage in serious friendship with someone for totally genuine, nonromantic reasons. And even then, I would never remotely consider them as potential domestic life partners/passionate friends.

Go read this post. I agree with every single point, and I’ve experienced the same. I believe this theory really is worth considering, in the aromantic community, and it’s certainly reason for us to be careful with who we emotionally invest ourselves in and try to form important friendships with. Our love is real, our feelings matter, and we can be deeply hurt by romantic people who treat us and our friendship as insignificant, disposable, meaningless, and categorically inferior to romance. We need to take care of ourselves, put ourselves first, and realize that we deserve and have the right to be valued, to be loved, to be prioritized, and to have the kind of friendships and partnerships we desire. Knowing how frequently aros experience bullshit in their friendships because of romance supremacy, amatonormativity, and their friends’ romantic relationships just makes me want to be befriend as many aros, sexual and asexual, as I can and be as loving and attentive to them in friendship as I can. For the rest of my life. It makes me want to be the kind of friend and partner to other aros that I’ve always wanted someone to be for me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism, Love & Relationships

Happy Aromantic Awareness Week!

This week is the first official and annual Aromantic Awareness Week, as agreed upon by the online aro community!

We decided we needed our own awareness week, separate from Asexual Awareness Week, which is every October.

No Romo

To celebrate, I’m going to link you to a fantastic article that was just published over at Rookie Magazine, written by a fellow aromantic person (who is possibly gray-asexual) about aromanticism. It’s very well-written and well-done, and will definitely teach you something about being aro.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism

A Response to rotten-zucchinis, on the cupioromanticism debate

I recently submitted a post to Asexual Advice explaining my problem with cupioromanticism, and Tumblr user rotten-zucchinis responded to me. The following is my reply to their response.

Basically, I vehemently disagree with your suggestion that romantic attraction does not define romantic relationships and in fact has nothing at all to do with whether or not a relationship is romantic.

Go ask 100 alloromantics if they would call a relationship they have with someone who they are not romantically attracted to, who is also not romantically attracted to them, “romantic.” Ask them if they’ve ever wanted a romantic relationship with someone they are not romantically attracted to. I would bet money every single one of them would wrinkle their nose and go, “That doesn’t make any damn sense.” And without asking them directly, we can observe them in romantic relationships which have gone flat or bad, where romantic or even affectionate and loving behaviors are scarce or nonexistent, yet they still define that relationship as romantic because their feelings for each other are romantic to them.

rotten-zucchninis said: “The “romantic” nature of a romantic relationship is not about the presence or absence of specific acts, behaviours, or attractions ( which are in turn different from romantic feelings for someone, which are in turn different from a relationship feeling romantic ).

A relationship is “romantic” if and only if the relationship feels romantic. And that’s going to mean and look like a whole bunch of different things for a whole bunch of different people.*”

What you just said doesn’t actually mean anything. A relationship in which both people are not romantically attracted to each other can’t “feel romantic” to them, unless they believe that specific behaviors are innately romantic, which is the false premise that I’ve been trying to bust all along. What the hell does it mean for a relationship to “feel romantic” independent of romantic attraction AND behavior? Attraction IS a feeling. That’s all it is. You can’t say that romantic attraction and romantic feelings are different and separate. That’s totally illogical. And again, go find alloromantics and run this by them, considering they’re the ones who definitely know what romantic attraction feels like and how it compares to not feeling romantic about someone at all.

By the way, your suggestion that romantic feelings are different than romantic attraction–I’d love to see you try to actually explain that one–would still ultimately invalidate cupioromanticism. If you have romantic feelings for anyone, you’re not aromantic. Period. You could be gray-romantic. You could be demiromantic. But you’re not aromantic. Aromanticism is about not feeling romantic attraction, that’s it. So trying to pass off cupioromanticism as “wanting a relationship that feels romantic, even though you don’t experience romantic attraction” just doesn’t make any sense.

And if you’re aromantic, supposedly, you can’t even know what “romantic” feels like in the first place! The only way you can formulate a theoretical “romantic” feeling in your head is if you go by romantic society’s presentation of romance and romantic relationships, which again heavily rests on behaviors and gestures, and which brings us right back to my bottom line about the amatonormative premise of “romantic relationships are superior to nonromantic relationships, in part because they are the only kind in which these behaviors and emotions can happen” being the fuel of self-identified cupioromantics thinking they want “romantic” relationships.

Nonromantic love exists.

Nonromantic passion exists.

Nonromantic intimacy exists.

Nonromantic caring and kindness exists.

Nonromantic emotional attachment exists.

If it doesn’t exist for alloromantic people, fine, but a lot of aromantics CAN and DO experience those things in their nonromantic relationships, whether toward desired partners or friends or whoever. The combination of all those emotional experiences cannot and do not amount to a universal “romantic” attraction or feeling, and therefore cannot warrant the labeling of a relationship with all of those feelings in them as “romantic” without the agreement and consent of the people actually in the relationship.

That leaves behaviors: living together, the full range of physical affection and intimacy, spending quality time together, making a formal commitment to each other, co-parenting children together, legal marriage, etc. And every single one of those behaviors can happen nonromantically, between two people who are not romantically attracted to each other and never will be and have no interest in romantic relationships.

So my definition stands. Romantic relationships are defined by romantic attraction present in at least one person and the mutual agreement that the relationship is romantic and will be publicly declared as such. Without romantic attraction in at least one party, there’s no motive to label the relationship “romantic” and nothing to separate it from any queerplatonic or otherwise nonromantic partnership that exists. Likewise, those queerplatonic relationships and other nonromantic partnerships are defined as nonromantic because they DON’T include romantic attraction and are not presented to society as being romantic in nature.

If you have two different people approach you, one is romantic and one is aromantic, both want to be your partner and both would behave in exactly the same ways toward you and in the partnership, then the only difference is the presence or absence of romantic attraction and the label. If both relationships would be primary, if both relationships would function as a partnership, if both relationships would include love and bonding and affection, if both relationships would have the same level of involvement and commitment, then yeah, the two people are offering the same relationship but with different names and different personal motive. From your perspective as an aromantic, there is absolutely no reason why the romantic person offering a romantic relationship should be more desirable than the aromantic person offering a queerplatonic or nonromantic partnership. You can’t feel anyone else’s feelings but your own anyway. So always preferring the romantic person and relationship can only come from a place of believing that romantic relationships are automatically superior, more valuable, more meaningful, more serious, etc than nonromantic relationships, and that is romance supremacy be definition and a message handed down by an amatonormative society.

You didn’t actually explain how the two relationships in my example would be “different,” so I don’t know how else to refute your objection to my example. All I can say is that if the two are behaviorally identical and equally loving, then the only difference would be the romantic attraction of lack thereof your partner feels and what they want to label the relationship. You’re telling me not to “disregard potential differences in different kind of relationships,” but you don’t actually list what those differences are. And you’re ignoring my original example in which there are NOT behavioral or emotional differences between a romantic person’s romantic relationship and an aromantic person’s nonromantic relationship/partnership, so I don’t see how your comment makes sense.

I haven’t seen a single self-identified cupiromantic person provide a positive, rational reason why they would want a romantic relationship, that has nothing to do with assumptions about romantic relationships being the only kind of primary partnerships, romantic relationships being more involved or loving or emotional than nonromantic partnerships, romantic relationships being the only source of commitment or physical affection or some other desirable behavior, romantic love being more compelling or emotional or passionate or deep than nonromantic love, etc. All of those assumptions are bullshit, all of them are toxic, and all of them come from amatonormativity and romance supremacy. If and when someone can come up with a reason for an aromantic person wanting a romantic relationship with someone who is romantically attracted to them that is NOT based on any of those assumptions, I’ll take it into consideration as a possible justification for the cupioromantic identity. Until then, I stand by my critique of it.

 

We agree that amatonormativity is the problem here. But an aromantic person gunning for romantic relationships in their own life as a coping mechanism, to deal with a fear of being alone or socially insignificant or a desire for physical intimacy or a desire for a primary partner, IS problematic and contributing to amatanormativity. There is nothing benign about it. The belief and assumption of “No one will want to be primary partners with me or give me the priority, affection, and emotional intimacy I desire unless I enter romantic relationships” is contributing to amatonormativity, even as it comes from there, by erasing and invalidating queerplatonic and other nonromantic partnerships and friendship.

P.S. If you’re suggesting that two aromantic people could be in a “romantic” relationship with each other, I’m going to stop you right there and call bullshit. Why any two aros would come to that conclusion about their relationship is beyond me–as someone on the aro spectrum and someone who talks to aros of all sexual orientations and degrees of romance-repulsion–and I think the idea goes back to the same problematic idea underlying cupioromanticism that I’ve already pointed out: that romantic relationships can be identified or categorized as such independent of feelings, which only leaves behavior to work with. And that feeds into the amatonormative and yes, romance supremacist, attitude that romantic relationships exclusively hoard certain desirable features by nature and that those features cannot exist in nonromantic contexts.

Guess what? I only want to be partners and queerplatonic friends with other aromantic people, and I also want my relationships to be emotionally passionate, deep, expressive, caring, tender, super loving, intimate, and affectionate. I can and will live with partners long-term in a committed and intentional fashion, be very physically and sensually intimate with them, behave lovingly toward them, demonstrate my feelings through letters or love poems or gifts or doing something special for them or saying “I love you” for no reason on a regular basis, etc. I don’t care if the world codes any or all of this as “romantic,” I don’t care if romantic people think that I’m not supposed to feel or do them in friendships, and I don’t care if romantic people mistake my queerplatonic friendships for romantic relationships–I’ll correct them straight up. This is a free universe, and I can do whatever the fuck I want in my relationships, regardless of whether it lines up with mainstream social norms or whether romantic people get it or not.

I know what it is to feel powerful love in a friendship, what it feels like to be passionate and intimate and deeply bonded to someone else in friendship, what it feels like to be joyful in friendship, even blissful. I know none of those feelings are romantic by default, at least for someone who is aromantic–and we are talking about aromantic people here, not alloromantics or even demiromantics and grayromantics experiencing romantic attraction. I also know what it’s like to have ignorant, narrow-minded alloromantic people try to tell me that I’m in denial about my own feelings or about love and friendship in general, because this laundry list of emotions and behaviors are “romantic” by nature, according to them.

Do I think the kind of friendships + partnerships I desire can be formed with alloromantics? No. I don’t. And I realize that they’re the overwhelming majority of the species. But that sure as fuck doesn’t mean that I’m going to go out there and try to date and find a romantic partner, out of desperation for something more rewarding than common friendliness/friendship. I know I want domestic partnerships, passionate friendships, queerplatonic friendships, friendships that are sensually physical and emotional. I don’t want anyone to be romantically attracted to me or to offer me the kind of relationship I want because of romantic attraction. I sure as fuck would never prefer some romantic person’s romantic love over a fellow aromantic person’s love.

And why should I? Romance is not better than friendship. Romantic love is not better or deeper or more intense than nonromantic love. Romantic relationships are not the only kind of relationships that can be partnerships. Romance has nothing to offer me or any other aromantic person that we can’t get from friendship/queerplatonic relationships/other nonromantic relationships.

Except the other person’s romantic attraction and society’s blessing that we’re living acceptable lives. And I don’t give a single fuck about that shit.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism, Love & Relationships