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

Recommended Reading: Aromantics Speak

I just read a few really phenomenal blog posts on aromanticism written by aro people.

 

Jess, a 32 year old aromantic allosexual, writes brilliantly about how tough it is to be both aro and sexual. This is really important and I can’t recommend it enough.

Read

Sin, a 27 year old aromantic asexual, writes about how their bad experiences in romantic relationships is not the cause or even an influence over their aromanticism. Also pretty important to read, because aromanticism is not the same thing as being jaded, bitter, or hurt by romance as an alloromantic.

Read

Katie, a 19 year old aromantic queer (presumably sexual) woman, writes a pretty great rant about aromanticism, media representation, and cultural prejudice against aros. (I’m linking to the post rebloged by Aro Ramblings, because it’s easier to read on their blog than on the original.)

Read

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism

Some Aromantic People Fit the Stereotype, and That’s Okay.

I just want to briefly chime in on a conversation that’s going on over at Aromantic Aardvark about the “cold, unemotional aromantic” stereotype. Some aros have objected to the common message of aromantics NOT fitting that stereotype and still being very emotional, passionate people, both in and out of personal relationships, because they (these aros who are complaining) do fit the stereotype, by their own estimation, and don’t think it’s fair to demonize aromantic people who are less emotional, less passionate, etc.

I think I’ve probably been one of those voices who try to correct the stereotype of aromantics as categorically less emotional, loving, etc than alloromantics, without actually affirming people who are in fact all of those stereotypical things. So first, I want to say that I don’t think there is anything wrong with aromantics who are not very emotional or warm or passionate people. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with any person who fits that bill. Some aros are unemotional, some aros aren’t very passionate about anything or anyone, some aros do have cold or standoffish personalities and demeanor. And some romantic people are like that too, which is why I don’t think those personality traits have anything to do with being aromantic. You can find any personality type in any romantic or sexual orientation group. My problem  has always been with romantic people and romantic culture believing that aromanticism is the CAUSE of a cold, unemotional, apathetic, unloving personality. My problem is romantic culture thinking that the only reason a human being could have feelings at all is because of their romantic attractions, which is a fucking disturbing line of thought when you assume that it’s true and then make logical conclusions about the natures of romantic people.

The discussion amongst aros about how we present aromanticism to the world is interesting for me to watch because I feel like I’m on both sides of the fence simultaneously. On the one hand, I’m a very cerebral person who always defaults to thought, not feeling. I don’t care about much of anything. I’m the most unenthusiastic person ever, to the point where people have commented on it to me. On the rare occasion I get excited about something, nobody can tell because I’m likely to just sit there and feel that excitement or enthusiasm internally without expressing it. Communicating ideas and thoughts comes naturally and easily to me. Expressing emotion while actually feeling it, does not come naturally to me.

On the other hand, I can be extremely passionate about the short list of things I do care about. The same goes for people and relationships: I’ve always been a very deep-feeling person, when I am attached to someone. I love passionately, more often than not. I can be very emotional about a person or relationship that is important to me, more than anybody probably realizes because again–I’m an introverted person who lives in my head and am not naturally expressive emotionally. I can actually get mixed up because I assume that other people know how I feel, when I’m feeling something really intense that is central in my experience, and I forget that I haven’t actually told them or demonstrated to them what I’m feeling or how strongly I’m feeling it. Intellectually, I know that assumption makes no sense, but in the emotional moment, I’ve made it anyway.

The thing is, there are so few people and things that I have feelings about, that even if I can and do experience passionate emotion for them, I spend way more time not feeling anything at all. Much of the time, when I love something or someone, it takes enormous emotional energy, so I’m actually glad that it doesn’t happen often.

In many ways, I do fit the aromantic stereotype. If you aren’t my friend–which goes for most people in the world–then you would probably describe me as aloof, intimidating, mysterious, even cold. (My MBTI type is INTJ, like hardcore.) Add to that super rational, logical, practical, unenthusiastic, intellectual, anti-romantic, sarcastic, etc. I acknowledge that I can be very harsh when someone gets into a heated argument with me, and downright cruel in the rare event that somebody pisses me off or offends me. I realize that from an outsider’s point of view, I’m about as far from cute, warm, and cuddly as I can possibly get.

However, those who have been really close to me would also say I’m one of the most passionate people they’ve met, sweet, loving, caring, affectionate. God knows I’m open about the fact that I love to cuddle and be physically intimate with people I love. I have my moments of kindness for no reason, and somewhere, there is a part of me that’s rather sensitive about a limited number of things. I certainly do have feelings and a heart that can be hurt and broken and likewise softened up. I want to be a warm partner, friend, sibling, companion, and I’m trying. I’ll always try.

Maybe comparing myself to a turtle or a crab or something like that would be an apt analogy. Except I’m probably 70% hard shell, 30% soft and vulnerable core. And not many people can make it through the shell, let me tell you.

I’ve never really stopped to consider the aromantic stereotypes as they might apply to me, until now, and even though I recognize that they do more than not, I don’t feel offended that others might see it as a bad thing. I’m not motivated to defend myself. I am who I am, and I’m comfortable with it. I’m trying to be more in tune with my emotions, just because I think it’s good for me, and I do know now that when I’m in friendships that are emotional, I should try to consciously be and express those feelings instead of just stewing in them privately. (In true INTJ fashion, I kinda see it as a life project.)

That said, it’s cool if you’re an unemotional aro. It’s cool if you don’t feel passionate about anything or anyone. It’s cool if you have a more standoffish, chilly, or remote personality. (Likewise, it’s cool if you’re aro and don’t want a partner, like living alone, don’t want kids, don’t really like to be physically affectionate with anyone, etc.) What matters is that you like yourself and that you treat others with respect. As long as you’re good to people and happy, be however you are and embrace it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism, Personal

Housekeeping Update

I’ve just updated the page of identity, attraction, and relationship terms. It was sorely needed! Some new words are on there, and definitions of some of the older words are now more accurate.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Amatanormativity, Romance, and Partnership: My Problem with “Cupioromanticism”

Some months ago, a new term and identity emerged out of the aromantic/asexual communities on Tumblr: cupioromantic, denoting a person who is aromantic (does not experience romantic attraction) but desires a romantic relationship. Several asexuals (aromantic and alloromantic) in the Tumblr community seemed to disapprove of the term/concept or disagreed with the idea of it being necessary as a sub-identity under the aromantic umbrella. “Cupioromantic” is supposed to be the romantic orientation version of “cupiosexual,” which describes asexuals who want sexual relationships—although most asexuals who like sex don’t bother using any other label except for “asexual.” Most asexuals, including ones who don’t like or have or want sex, believe that you can be asexual and still want sex to be a regular part of your life and relationships. I’m not interested in touching that subject in this post, although I will say that the idea of an asexual wanting sex is a lot more reasonable and justifiable than cupioromanticism.

As an aromantic-spectrum asexual and a radical relationship anarchist, I take major issue with “cupioromanticism” as a concept. I think it’s a mostly useless identity, although if you want to use it, no one can stop you. But the idea behind the identity is what’s so problematic, and that’s what I want to dig into in this post, because it’s connected to other issues in aromantic politics.

So, first let’s set a foundation. In order to understand why cupioromanticism is problematic, you need to know about amatonormativity, which is a word coined by professor and philosopher Elizabeth Brake in her book Minimizing Marriage: Marriage, Morality, and the Law. She defines amatonormativity as: “the assumption that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans, in that it is a universally shared goal, and that such a relationship is normative, in the sense that it should be aimed at in preference to other relationship types.” Amatonormativity perpetuates romance supremacy, or the belief that romantic relationships and love are superior to all relationships and love and should not only be desired above all relationships but prioritized above everything else by default. Amatonormativity is a paradigm installed and institutionalized into our culture, primarily perpetuated by the mainstream media, that teaches us to idolize, desire, and depend on romantic relationships and view ourselves as either loved or unloved through our status as someone else’s romantic other.

Understand that aromanticism is a very recent concept and identity, and the dialogue going on within and because of the aromantic population is extremely new. Aromantic identity originally cohered in the asexual community, but it has since become clear that aromanticism is not exclusive to asexuality and describes people of all sexual orientations. The vast majority of mankind doesn’t know aromanticism exists. This is not popular knowledge. Aromanticism is not represented in the media, in text books, in sexuality classes, in the mainstream LGBTQ movement, or anywhere else. Aromanticism is pretty much only alive online and in asexual education efforts, at this point. Most people, who are predominantly romantic, are completely ignorant of aromanticism and everything connected to it, and they have not yet been challenged or presented with the opportunity to deconstruct or even critically think about amatonormativity, romance supremacy, or common ideas of romance in general.

Aromanticism—aromantic love, feelings, relationships, emotion, identity, sexuality, and experience—is invisible in our culture. In every culture. It is imperative that you understand that, whether you’re aromantic or romantic and especially if you’ve ever even remotely identified with “cupioromanticism.” Invisibility is disempowerment. While aromantics don’t experience specific, directed, and intentional oppression and violence at the hands of the romantic majority or their cultural hegemonies, the total invisibility of aromantics is representative of their disempowerment, and that invisibility does nothing to protect them from amatonormativity. In fact, the invisibility of aromanticism is essential to the survival of amatonormativity.

As far as I’m concerned, the idea of cupioromanticism, of aromantics wanting romantic relationships, comes from a misguided place of internalized amatonormativity and romance supremacy. It comes from unquestioned adoption of mainstream relationship norms. It comes from anti-aromanticism. And it is perfectly logical that some aromantic-spectrum people carry enough of that baggage, that they’re telling themselves and the world that they want “romantic” relationships even though they don’t feel romantic attraction. If you don’t do the work of breaking all this social conditioning down in your own mind, you will be controlled by it. Aromantics who think they want or need romantic relationships aren’t much different than asexuals who believe they have to be okay with sex, that they should be willing and able to have sex in romantic relationships. Both sets of people are expressing their social programming, their internalized amatonormativity and compulsory sexuality.

Cupioromanticism, the idea that someone could be aromantic but want romantic relationships, is extremely problematic because it rests on the belief that there are unalterable criteria that separates “romantic” relationships from “nonromantic” relationships,” “romantic” love from “nonromantic” love, that certain emotions and behaviors can only be experienced in romantic relationship. Cupioromanticism invalidates queerplatonic friendships, passionate friendship, and primary nonromantic partnerships, even if unintentionally.

Cupioromanticism doesn’t make any sense because the only thing that defines romantic relationships as romantic is romantic attraction. That’s it. The feeling of romantic attraction. Not love, not prioritization, not emotional intimacy, not touch, not commitment, not cohabitation or coparenting or anything else. The only thing that makes a relationship romantic is romantic attraction, and romantic attraction is a completely subjective feeling that varies by person. The only way that you could be aromantic and want romantic relationships is if you specifically want to “date” someone who is romantically attracted to you, if you want your primary partner in life to be someone who is romantically attracted to you. You can find everything else except for romantic attraction outside of romantic relationships, if you look and if you want it, so a desire for closeness or love or primary partnership cannot be reasons you specifically want romantic relationships as opposed to queerplatonic relationships or any other kind of nonromantic friendship.

If you are aromantic but want to have a partner who’s romantically in love with you, I would think long and hard about why. Again, that desire—while technically the only good reason for identifying as “cupioromantic”—is pretty much rooted in romance supremacy. If you’re aromantic but the only kind of partner good enough for you is someone who’s romantically attracted to you, you must believe on some level that romantic love is better than nonromantic love. And that’s fucked up. You should work on scrapping that belief.

I can see how some aromantics who very much want a primary partner, a life partner/long-term partner, some kind of relationship that is very close and intimate and loving and meets their needs for touch, quality time, and priority would believe that the only way to get that kind of connection and commitment from someone is to enter into romantic relationship. In other words, I can see how a desire for romantic relationship may come from fear of having no significant relationship or partnership at all. We live in a world where most people are romantic, and in accordance with amatonormativity, most if not all romantic people do believe that romantic relationships are not only superior to friendship but the only kind of relationship that matters and the only kind that can be a primary/committed partnership. It’s always going to be easier to find someone who wants you for romantic partnership than it is to find someone who wants you for nonromantic/queerplatonic partnership or committed, passionate friendship.

But this fear shouldn’t and doesn’t need to be the basis of an identity. Convincing yourself that you need to get involved in a kind of relationship you don’t naturally feel interested in, just because you think there’s nothing else available, is a bad idea and not a reason to create some new label. Yes, some aromantic people get into romantic relationships with people they care about, who have romantic feelings for them, because they do want a partner and don’t mind if their partner is technically into them romantically. But unintentionally ending up in romantic relationship—especially if you’re sexual and want a steady sexual partner anyway—is not the same thing as actively wanting romantic relationship, as an aromantic person, because you think it can offer you something you can’t get anywhere else.

There is NOTHING that you can get from romantic relationships, that you can’t get from nonromantic friendship, except for your partner’s romantic attraction to you. I’m going to say it until you accept it. No behavior is inherently romantic. Love is not inherently, exclusively romantic. A primary partnership is not definitively romantic. You can have sex with a nonromantic partner, you can be committed to a nonromantic partner, you can kiss and cuddle and hug a nonromantic partner, you can live with a nonromantic partner, you can raise kids with nonromantic partners, you can mutually put each other first in a nonromantic relationship. Everything and anything you could possibly do or feel can be experienced in friendship and nonromantic partnership, except for romantic attraction.

Now, obviously, for many romantic people, certain things are romantic to them and therefore will only happen in their romantic relationships. But an individual’s perception of specific behaviors, relationship orchestration, and feelings as “romantic” never, ever functions as universal truth. Our personal feelings determine what is “romantic” and not romantic, nothing else. We cannot even define what romantic attraction is or feels like, in a way that applies to all human beings. Different romantic people experience romantic attraction differently, and what is “romantic” for some romantic people is nonromantic for some aromantic people. The pursuit of a singular and official definition for romantic attraction is futile. It doesn’t exist. It’s an emotion, and like all emotions, it’s totally subjective and internal and ultimately indescribable. Be skeptical of anyone who tries to tell you that their personal definition of romantic attraction is universally applicable. Romantic attraction is an abstract, instinctual sensation—not one you can define with a checklist of certain desires, interests, or physical symptoms.

Where so many romantic people tend to fuck up is in their assumption that romantic attraction is universal and experienced in just one way, that certain behaviors can only be motivated by romantic attraction—for all people—and therefore are defined as romantic in and of themselves. Instead of investigating a person’s feelings, apart from their behavior, we assume what their feelings are by looking at their behavior.

“A kiss is romantic, so if you kiss someone, you’re romantically attracted to them.”

“Primary partnerships are romantic, so if you want to be someone’s primary partner, you must have romantic feelings for them.”

This erroneous logic is based on a false premise: that both romantic behaviors and romantic feelings are uniform throughout the human species and that romantic behaviors are romantic independent of individual intent and attraction. In addition to the invisibility of aromanticism, romantic society doesn’t acknowledge these nonromantic phenomena because it teaches that certain behaviors and ways of relating have global romantic meaning regardless of anyone’s actual feelings. In reality, no behavior has meaning outside of personal intent, perception, and feeling—and the meaning of any given behavior changes according to individual and circumstance.

When aromantics desire, participate in, or feel things that are coded as romantic by mainstream society, romantic people falsely interpret the aromantic person’s feelings and intentions as romantic in nature. Romantic people are superimposing their own feelings, their own experiences of relating to others, onto aromantics and suggesting that aromantics are confused or in denial about who they are and what they want.

“You can’t be aromantic if you want a partner, if you feel strong emotion toward someone, if you love to cuddle and kiss people, if you love anyone who isn’t family, if you want to live with someone in a committed way, etc, etc—because all of that stuff is romantic.”

This is erasure of nonromantic love, nonromantic partnership, nonromantic touch and intimacy, and it is closely connected to romantic-sexual supremacy. It is very much in the interest of amatonormativity and romance supremacy to create the illusion that many desirable experiences can only be accessed through romance, because if they can be accessed through nonromantic relationship, all of a sudden romantic relationships are not so worth coveting or glorifying as extraordinary. By making positive emotional and relational resources scarce and limited to romantic relationships, society ensures that nonromantic friendship is continually subordinated to romance and devalued, which serves the patriarchal heteronormative capitalistic political machine in various ways. Deromanticizing and desexualizing love, touch, intimacy, commitment, and partnership would not only empower and liberate aromantics, but destroy amatonormativity and dismantle the romantic-sexual relationship hierarchy on a broad cultural scale.

When romantic people attempt to deny aromantic experiences that contradict the premise of loving connection only existing in romance, they’re performing a kind of orientation centrism: the refusal to acknowledge socio-emotional experiences outside of one’s own orientation(s), believing in the superiority and exclusive normalcy of one’s own experiences and practices, and believing that everyone else should be and live and feel like you. Forcefully romanticizing other people’s nonromantic relationships, love, intimacies, and identities is relational and emotional imperialism, an extension of the cultural, linguistic, ontological, and historical imperialism that goes on in the international political arena and the academic world. There is an ongoing tradition of distorting relationships, sexuality, and ways of loving in other time periods and parts of the world, for the purpose of making them fit into mainstream, contemporary, white, Anglo-Saxon, romantic-sexual realities—and most everyone is guilty of it to one degree or another, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Instead of accepting that there are realities different, even incompatible, with our own and trying our best to see them for what they are instead of what we want them to be, we often filter them through our personal biases for the purpose of serving and reinforcing our own desires, our own experiences, our own identities. All romantic-sexual people—straight, gay, bisexual, queer—have done this to friendship, to nonromantic and nonsexual relationships of the past and the present, in their own countries and in other countries. Instead of looking at other people’s feelings, relationships, and behaviors in the context of their time and place, romantic-sexual people assume romantic and sexual attraction and involvement are behind any non-familial love, intimacy, partnership, touch, and strong emotional connection because they themselves believe that romantic-sexual relationships are superior to nonromantic and/or nonsexual friendship.

Romantic people erasing, denying, and romanticizing aromantic relationships, love, and desire for connection is similar to English speaking societies ignoring and erasing words and concepts in other languages that cannot be directly translated into English, which is linguistic imperialism. It is similar to spreading English into other societies without bridging or encouraging a bridge between language differences, and dismissing the legitimacy of other languages’ unique features. The attitude is, “If it doesn’t exist in English, it doesn’t exist or it isn’t relevant,” because English has become the default “normal” language, the language that ought to be universal. Likewise, there is an attitude in romantic-dominated society that anything out of sync with the romance paradigm and its supporting constructs doesn’t exist, is illegitimate, abnormal, or confused. Any feeling, relationship, or person that doesn’t fit into romantic society’s amatonormative reality is buried in invisibility and inaccurately repackaged as romantic. Romantic society has no interest in learning how to speak aromanticism. It only insists on spreading the language, the culture, of romance, and just like with English-speaking white nations and their otherized counterparts, many aromantics actually find themselves willing to submit to their own erasure, seduced into a desire for assimilation into the powerful and visible normative majority. If romantic relationships are superior to nonromantic relationships and if romance is the only source of love and if romance is the defining characteristic of a person’s humanity, then pretending to be romantic and entering into romantic relationships after convincing yourself that’s what you want become logical acts of self-denial.

Speaking of language, it must be understood that power and freedom do not exist without the ability to effectively communicate and express one’s truth, which is why the labels and other words aromantic people use to describe their feelings, desires, and relationships are necessary and important. Funnily enough, English—which has become the one and only global language—includes a handful of sexualized and romanticized words that linguistically create and support the actual system of relationships normative in English-speaking nations, a system that is intensely amatonormative and saturated with compulsory sexuality and romance supremacy. Our own language erases and shuts down aromantic and asexual experiences, lives, relationships, and emotions. As we speak it on a daily basis, we are reinforcing the very romantic-sexual paradigm that denies our existence as aromantic people. The words we invent to describe and navigate our feelings and relationships and even the identity term “aromantic” are not just silly internet neologisms that have no real meaning. They are tools aromantics need to assert our own reality and the realness of our selves. They are a form of resistance to amatonormativity, romance supremacy, the idea that all people are romantic and only romantic relationships are legitimate sources of love, intimacy, and partnership.

I have to emphasize that romanticizing emotion is just as harmful and ridiculous as romanticizing behaviors and language, and this act on the part of romantic society explains why so many romantic people make assumptions about aromantic people’s emotional lives. It’s pretty common for aromantic people to see and hear romantics objecting to the existence of aromanticism with comments like: “You mean you don’t have feelings?” or “These people must be sociopaths.” As if romantic attraction is the sum total of human emotion. (Frankly, we should be more disturbed about what that says of romantic people than offended as aromantics.) As if romantic love is the only kind of love that exists. As if romantic attraction is the only thing that enables a person to be warm, kind, friendly, passionate, deeply emotional, and empathetic.

Aromantics are not emotionally stunted. We don’t have a shorter emotional range than romantic people do. We just don’t experience romantic attraction. That’s it. That’s the only categorical difference between aromantics and romantics. Romantic attraction has nothing to do with love, emotional attachment, empathy, fear, anger, desire, sadness, sensitivity, or even sexuality. There are aromantics in every sexual orientation and just as much variety in the aromantic population, in terms of social and emotional style and tendencies, as there is in the romantic population. An aromantic’s preferences and desires when it comes to having a partner, being a parent, engaging in emotional connection, talking about feelings, engaging in physical affection and intimacy, and everything else under the umbrella of personal relationships vary from person to person.

As for the debate about what makes “romantic” relationships vs. nonromantic relationships and where an aromantic person’s desires for closeness and partnership fall, I have to hammer home this fact that nothing is naturally romantic except romantic attraction, and that aromantics can participate in any behavior they like with a friend or partner, regardless of the absence of romantic attraction. The aromantic section of the asexual community created the word and concept of queerplatonic relationships precisely because many aromantic people want relationships that go beyond common friendship but are not romantic. Queerplatonic friendship can include anything typically found in romantic relationships, and their defining characteristic is that no romantic attraction is present between the two friends in the relationship. Queerplatonic relationships can be anything you want. Some of them are primary partnerships, and some aren’t. Some are physically affectionate, and some aren’t. Some are exclusive, and some aren’t. Some are even sexual, though most are not.

The idea of queerplatonic relationships, of aromantic love and partnership, is so radical and significant—more than any of us who have become used to the concept realize—for many reasons but particularly because it illuminates the truth that there is indeed love, intimacy, connection, and partnership outside of romance. Romance is not the source of these things and never has been. That’s what is so important to understand, for cupioromantic-identifying aros and people who support that identity. If you can access everything you desire from a friend or partner in queerplatonic relationship or other forms of friendship, except for romantic attraction, why would you want romantic relationships as a self-identified aromantic person? If you acknowledge that queerplatonic and passionate friendships exist and are possible, if you acknowledge that nonromantic primary partnerships can happen, why would you want a romantic relationship as a self-identified aromantic person? If you, as an aromantic person, were presented with the options of a conventional romantic relationship and a queerplatonic partnership, both of them offering everything you want in a significant relationship, the only difference being the presence or absence of romantic attraction from your partner, why would you choose the romantic relationship?

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism, Language & Terminology, Love & Relationships

Aromanticism Discussion on HuffPo Live!

This is so AMAZING. An open and respectful conversation about aromanticism on HuffPo Live! Aromantic and asexual interviewees! Discussion about queerplatonic relationships!

I am so happy that aromanticism is finally being discussed in the mainstream media!

 

Aromantics Want to Be Friends, But Not Asexual

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism

Vice Publishes Article on Aromanticism!

An article about aromanticism was recently published on Vice.com! And I’ve gotta say, it’s pretty damn good considering it was written by someone romantic and posted on fucking Vice of all places. There are a few spots that made me wince–like the idea that only romantics want “a loving relationship” as if “love” is exclusive to romance; or the line that says aromantics don’t consider physical affection “an expression of emotion” even if they like doing it–but overall, it’s pretty well-done. So much better than it could’ve been. I wish the author hadn’t brought up Tumblr and was a bit less tongue-in-cheek, but I can let the flaws slide because

a) she talks about aromantic sexual people! Aromanticism as something distinct from asexuality!

b) she talks about queerplatonic relationships!

c) she interviewed an aromantic lesbian, in addition to other aros!

d) she acknowledges that aros can enjoy cuddling/kissing at all!

 

Seriously, it is awesome to see aromanticism finally surfacing in the mainstream media and being presented in a mostly accurate/neutral or positive way. I hope this is the first of many more articles on aromanticism to come.

:)

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism, Visibility and Education

Recommended Reading: Stigma Against Aromantic Allosexual People

Anagnori wrote a fantastic and very important post a while back about the prejudice against aromanticism and specifically aromantic sexual people that is deeply embedded in our society. I think everyone should read it and become aware of this stigma, because it is harmful not only to aromantic sexual people but to other sexually active/allosexual people too.

Read the post here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aromanticism, Sexuality