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.