The First Aromantic Census

Fellow aros, please participate in this survey I created to collect data on aromantics.

All sexual orientations are welcome.

Please only take the survey if you’re aromantic, meaning you do not experience romantic attraction or a desire for romantic relationships. This survey is not for demiromantics, gray-romantics, quoiromantics, etc. I may make a separate survey for aromantic-spectrum people who aren’t aromantic in the near future and then compare the results of these two surveys.

Please feel free to invite other aros you know to take the survey too!

Thank you!

The Aromantic Census 2015

A Vital Resource of Asexual Survivors of Sexual Violence

I want to call your attention to a very important and valuable new website that was just launched by prominent members of the ace community: Resources for Ace Survivors provides resources, guidance, and a support network for asexual survivors of sexual violence. I’ve already added it to my page of helpful links.

Sexual violence is all too common in the asexual population, including and especially in the context of romantic relationships with sexual people. This is an issue that, for many reasons, has been avoided and ignored in asexual visibility and education projects and in the asexual community online itself. It’s time that silence end, once and for all. It’s time that asexual survivors of all types of sexual violence–whether it happens in romantic relationships or not, whether it’s corrective or not, whether it happened before you started IDing as ace or not, no matter what you’re gender or race or romantic orientation–talk about what they’ve been through and receive the help they need.

The nice thing about this resource is that it provides the opportunity for ace survivors to talk to other ace survivors confidentially. While the aces on The List (which is not public) are not therapists, they do know from personal experience what it’s like to be ace, what it’s like to be an ace survivor, etc. You can be confident that it’s safe to talk to them openly and honestly about whatever you’ve experienced and that they will not be at all dismissive or critical of your identity or your trauma, which is a risk in going to counselors/friends/family who are sexual people.

I urge anyone and everyone who reads this and who is asexual or on the ace spectrum and has experienced any kind of sexual violence to make use of this website in whatever way you find useful.

Stay strong.

Nonsexual Polyamory is Totally a Thing

It’s funny to me how often monogamists criticize polyamorous and ethically nonmonogamous people by slut shaming them and claiming that polyamory/nonmonogamy is just “an excuse” to be sexually promiscuous, to avoid commitment, to fuck around with multiple people you don’t actually care about or (romantically) love. It’s funny not because of how totally off base it is, but because in reality, polyamorous romantic-sexual people and poly aromantic sexual people are actually more likely to embrace a totally nonsexual romantic/intimate relationship than monogamous people are. You don’t even have to try hard to find evidence of this; just Google “nonsexual polyamory” and several threads on poly forums and poly blogs will pop up where real poly people talk about their nonsexual partnerships.

Don’t get me wrong, sex IS definitely a big part of polyamory/nonmonogamy for the majority of sexual poly people and for some of them, poly/nonmonogamy is about the sex to one degree or another. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with even the nonromantic sex that happens in some nonmonogamous people’s lives, assuming they approach it ethically.

But my point is, as an asexual person who has been involved in the ace community for going on 1o years now and who is very familiar with the woes of romantic asexuals who try to date sexual people (usually monogamously), it’s hilarious to me that the very people Romantic Monogamous society blasts for being too sexual, too promiscuous, too sexually uncontrollable or whatever are the ones who are more likely to both accept and succeed at a nonsexual romantic relationship with someone who may be ace or otherwise sexually unavailable. Not all poly people are cool with nonsexual romance, which is fine, but far more of them seem to be in comparison to monogamists.

And it’s logical, isn’t it? If you’re sexual and you need sex to be happy, and you’re also polyamorous/ethically nonmonogamous, you can be involved with someone who won’t have sex with you and get your sexual needs met by another partner or partners, which thus makes it significantly easier to accept the nonsexual status of one of your other romantic relationships. If you’re monogamous, then either you’re going to give up sex for your ace partner and be unhappy or, much more likely, they’re going to have to put up with sex for you.

I’m not saying that people who can only be truly happy in monogamy should try to fix a mixed romantic relationship with polyamory/nonmonogamy–that’s almost certain to end badly–but I am saying that it’s a fact poly aces or poly-friendly aces have much better odds of being comfortably romantically/nonsexually involved with someone who’s polyamorous and cool with a nonsexual RR than they do with a monogamous sexual person.

And let’s not forget that asexuals can also be polyamorous with each other–in which case, it really isn’t about the sex at all. There is no sex.

Monogamous haters of polyamory really should get educated, is all I’m saying. In their ignorance, they just end up looking stupid.

6 Things That Made Me Realize I’m an Aromantic Asexual

The Thinking Asexual:

Another really good post from the blog Flying While Falling Down, about their personal journey to figuring out their aromantic asexual identity. It doesn’t fit the commonly assumed stereotypes of aromanticism or asexuality either.

Originally posted on Flying While Falling Down:

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Sometimes when I think about how long it took me to figure out my orientation and identity, I’m absolutely astounded. I was raised in a very conservative(not necessarily political, but highly religious/traditionalist) household and discovering these different aspects of myself has led to a curious kind of peace within myself.

One of the hardest realizations that I finally came to terms with was my aromantic identity. There’s seems to be an amazing amount of confusion about aromantics, in general, and aromantic asexuals, in particular.

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An Aromantic Perspective: What It’s Like To Be In A Romantic Relationship

The Thinking Asexual:

This is a really good and valuable post about what it’s like to be in romantic relationships when you’re aromantic and romance-repulsed/romance-averse/generally uncomfortable with romantic relationships. I recommend you read it to get a better handle on what aromanticism can feel like from the inside, especially when it clashes with romance. And if you think all aros are “heartless” or uncaring assholes, including and especially in romantic relationships, then you should definitely read this to see how wrong you are.

Originally posted on Flying While Falling Down:

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It took me a really long time to come to terms with my aromanticism. Being an aromantic means that I don’t have romantic attraction. A lot of people assume that this means I can’t be loving, friendly, or even sociable. A lot of people also assume that I’m a prude and a whiny ‘trend follower’ by being openly aro.

What a lot of people don’t realize is how it feels to be an aromantic person who’s in a romantic relationship.

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A Bit of Personal Good News

So I’m a creative writer, besides writing the kind of activist/educational stuff that appears on this blog. And recently, a novella that I wrote was accepted for publication by a small press. This novella features two openly aromantic women, one asexual and one heterosexual, who are queerplatonic partners and best friends. So I’m really happy and excited that the story’s going to be published and that aros, particularly aro women, will have a couple characters to see themselves in. I’m pleased with the way the novella turned out in general–it’s crime fiction–and I hope that some aros out there enjoy it as much as I do.

The release date is tentatively set for November. When the book is officially available, I will make a post here and link to it, so anyone who wants to read it or recommend it can check it out.

:)

Butch Tits and Tank Tops

I’m sure I’m not the only masculine genderqueer person for whom the following is true: it is significantly easier to dress for your masculinity in winter, autumn, and spring. Visually, my butch/masc levels are proportional to how hot it is outside. I live in the desert. Daytime temperatures stay in the 100s all summer long. I can get away with jeans, but it doesn’t make any sense to layer up with shirts, jackets, sweatshirts, etc. It’s t-shirt weather, but sometimes I wear tank tops. Tank tops that are form-fitting, with a low neckline, usually with narrow straps. One reason I wear them is because they’re physically comfortable in the heat, but I also like them for their own sake.

I’ve given up on binding my chest because it’s just too uncomfortable with my chest size. Even if I was willing to wear a binder on a regular basis, there is no way in hell I could comfortably do it in the summertime. The best I can do is wear a bra that reduces the size visually, without flattening my chest, but I don’t even do that all the time because it’s still easier to wear standard underwire bras. I’m mostly at peace with this.

But what prompted this post was putting on a bra and a tank top today and feeling acutely aware of how not-masculine it looks, of how obvious my large bust is. Even with short hair, jeans, and sneakers, my upper body places me squarely in the hetero- male gaze as a sexually desirable woman (or should I say, a sexually desirable female body?), and that made me want to put on a sweatshirt.

And it’s not just about wanting to hide from heterosexual male desire. It’s also just about feeling the need to live up to my own gender identity, which sounds silly and probably is. I guess this feeling amounts to: if I’m not masculine all the time, I’m not masculine. Or I’m not a true butch. People who see me on days when I’m wearing a tank top and my tits are on display aren’t seeing who I really am either, and I guess that bothers me a little bit too, sometimes.

Part of me wants to throw out my tank tops and underwire bras and make life more uncomfortable for myself, just to look masculine all the time. And don’t get me wrong: I feel best when I am completely, undeniably masculine from head to toe. I do prefer the way I look when my chest is bound or hidden, and I am happier with my appearance when I’m wearing a flannel shirt, jeans, and a cargo jacket or a suit. But sometimes, I feel like painting my nails or wearing a tank top. I would rather be comfortable and physically healthy than flat-chested. I totally respect and support all the butches and genderqueer folks who are committed to visual masculinity 100%, 24/7, but I’m just don’t feel the need to banish femininity from my body and appearance on a full-time basis. I’m not willing to suffer for masculinity.

That unwillingness doesn’t make me exempt from feeling conflicted, however. I’ve written before about wrestling with my masculinity and my body in the context of masculinity, and I’m still in the middle of that. Maybe that struggle never ends, I don’t know. I’ve complicated things for myself by being aware of and resistant to femmephobia, especially the femmephobia built into popular ideas of androgyny and genderqueerness. I’ve complicated things by wanting to do masculinity and gender on my own terms, while still harboring some desire for other people to see and believe and respect my masculinity.

Maybe one reason I don’t feel compelled to throw out my tank tops and bras or bind every day or swear off nail polish and eyeliner, is I feel like my masculinity is ultimately something internal, something intrinsic to who I am that I can’t remove. I can’t detach my tits so easily either. The difference is, my tits are always visible, while my masculinity is sometimes invisible. But even when my masculinity is invisible, even when I don’t look like a butch, I still feel like a butch. I feel my masculinity at all times, which is probably why wearing a dress or a skirt or high heels or even lipstick now feels like drag to me. My tits, my genitals, even my face doesn’t make it any less weird—to me—to put those feminine things on. The world wouldn’t bat an eye if I went out in heels, lipstick, and a dress, but I wouldn’t feel like myself.

Some people would disqualify me from being a butch or masculine-identifying person because I’m not constantly dressed and physically presented in the butchest way possible. I’m not mimicking cis men enough. A real butch doesn’t wear nail polish or tight tank tops or skinny pants. A real butch with a big bust wears a binder in public at all times. A real butch confuses strangers about whether they’re male or female. A real butch isn’t pretty or beautiful, only handsome or hot. A real butch is never attractive to straight men. All of that assumes masculinity is a performance, rather than a characteristic of the self—and my disagreement with that perspective is why I can look at my chest in the mirror or wear a woman’s tank top and still feel that I am a masculine person. If a man can wear a dress and still be a man, I can have this body and wear whatever clothes and be masculine.

I’ve read articles before about the problematic irrationality of masculine-only genderqueerness, and I agree completely that a genuine conceptualization of genderqueer, androgynous, and nonbinary expressions include room for femininity. If I identified only as nonbinary, maybe I would have an easier time of feeling at peace with the presence of feminine markers on my body—but I realize that the “butch” part of my identity isn’t just a descriptor of my gender presentation or expression but my actual gender. I feel like a butch/masculine person no matter what I wear. I feel butch right now, with red nail polish on. I feel butch even if I try putting on lipstick, and that’s why lipstick doesn’t really feel right. Masculinity isn’t just a style preference for me anymore; it feels deeper than that.

I encountered a concept not too long ago that I think is very important, in general and in my personal gender experience: masculinity does not belong to men. Traditional, mainstream masculinity may originate in men, be developed and determined by men, but masculinity as an identity, an energy, a way of being does not belong to men. (Just as femininity does not belong to women.) Female masculinity is a legitimate thing in its own right, and for that matter, so is genderqueer/nonbinary masculinity. If you ask me, women and genderqueer people should be able to embody and present masculinity with more flexibility than cis men usually do, should be able to make masculinity their own instead of accepting what cis men define it as without question. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with modeling masculinity off of cis men, but we shouldn’t be limited to that particular masculinity either. We shouldn’t be or feel disqualified from masculinity just because we don’t perform it to cis men’s standards. Empowering and respecting femininity is important, and I think one of the advantages of being a masculine woman or genderqueer person is having the opportunity and the freedom to be masculine in ways that acknowledge, embrace, and even promote femininity.

What I’m trying to say is that women’s masculinity and nonbinary masculinity doesn’t have to be men’s masculinity. However conscious or unconscious it is, I get the sense that masculine people who aren’t men care too much about convincing men of female/nonbinary masculinity, more than they care about what other women and nonbinary people think. But if men aren’t the gatekeepers of masculinity, why should we be so anxious to earn their stamp of approval?

Anyway, what I hope at the end of the day is that no matter what I look like on the outside, people can sense that I am masculine. I want people to feel it when I enter the room: that masculine energy, clear enough and strong enough that when they look at me—no matter what I’m wearing or what my body looks like—they can’t think anything else but, “That’s a masculine person.” In service of that desire, I’ll keep doing my best to reach for peace with my bust, with underwire bras in my real size, with nail polish and tank tops. When I’m completely in my masculinity, enough that people don’t even notice my tits or my clothes, then I’ll know that I’ve arrived.

Take Off Those Romance-Colored Glasses

Part of belonging to a marginalized minority in society is having to detoxify your own mind of the harmful and false belief systems and points of view that you’ve internalized throughout the course of your life, simply through constant exposure to the rhetoric and realities of the kyriarchy. We all spend too much time consuming media and paying attention to our social network, and that leads to a constant absorption and reinforcement of racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, amatonormativity, sex normativity, de facto monogamy, etc. We did not pick up our prejudices, build our personal worldview, and install our beliefs into the deepest levels of our psyche overnight—and we aren’t going to break them down quickly either. It’s a process. It’s a process that never ends, but one that is absolutely vital for us to undertake, for our personal and collective well-being.

It goes without saying that asexuals have internalized compulsory sexuality, sex normativity, and anti-asexuality just like everybody else. It also goes without saying that aromantic people have internalized amatonormativity, singlism, and anti-aromanticism. This programming began in early childhood, when we would all read books and watch movies and TV shows that presented only one message on the subject of human relationships: it is normal, inevitable, and exclusively correct for all people to want and eventually have a heterosexual romantic relationship that follows the blueprint mainstream society promotes, which involves monogamy, marriage, having children, the man and woman filling traditional binary gender roles, etc. Go back and check all the children’s movies, TV shows, and books that you consumed before the age of 10. See how many of them include a conventional hetero- romantic relationship plot line, particularly one at the center of the story. Now look for the ones that didn’t include that straight romantic relationship. What’s the ratio?

See, this process of internalizing anti-asexual and anti-aromantic beliefs and attitudes didn’t start when you hit puberty, when you entered high school or junior high, certainly not as late as college. The world started filling your brain with this shit EARLY. When you were too young to question it, too young to wonder about alternatives, when you were so young and impressionable that anyone could’ve told you anything about the way life and the world works and you would’ve believed it. So now, when you reach your 20s and beyond, you’ve been running the same program in your brain for decades. Shit is deeply entrenched. Replacing that programming with something totally different, even as you continue to live and participate in the society and culture that gave you the program in the first place and is reinforcing it nonstop everywhere you look, is going to take effort! It’s going to take focus, more specifically. And it’s definitely going to take time.

I want to talk about aromantic people thinking like romantics. This is a problem I’ve noticed in aro spaces online, both the ones that are mostly asexual and the ones that include sexual people. It’s a symptom of internalized amatonormativity and anti-aromanticism, although the sort of thing I’m talking about today has less to do with hating yourself for being aro and more to do with seeing the world and human relationships through romantic-person lenses, even though you’re aro.

I’ve noticed that some aromantic folks, whether sexual or asexual, are stuck in romantic perspectives when it comes to human relationships and love. They’re talking like romantic people, throwing around the word “relationship” the way romantic people do—to mean a partnership that is more than and different from friendship—and worst of all, conducting their own social life like romantic people.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen people online ask questions like: “What’s the difference between a queerplatonic relationship and a best friendship?” or “Can I still be aromantic if I want a queerplatonic partner? Or does that make me gray?” And oftentimes, I look on with disappointment when I see advice bloggers answer along the lines of, “Queerplatonic relationships are this, and friendships are that. They’re not the same thing.”

Queerplatonic relationships are friendships. We should not be trying to avoid that truth here, out of fear that romantic people won’t take us and our relationships seriously. Just because romantic society treats friendship like disposable, meaningless trash doesn’t mean that aromantic people who want or have nonromantic partnerships have to dismiss the idea that what we desire and what we have are friendships. Trying to convince the world that queerplatonic partnerships are something other than or more than friendship is pulling the same shit that romantic people pull when they treat romantic relationships as different from friendship by virtue of being more.

The word and the concept of queerplatonic relationships was created by AROMANTIC people, to describe their own feelings and desires for nonromantic relationships that don’t fit into romantic society’s understanding, into romantic society’s relationship binary of “romantic partnerships” vs. “friendships.” That’s why I’m flabbergasted whenever I see someone ask whether wanting a queerplatonic partnership might mean they’re not aromantic. Jesus Christ! A desire for a NONROMANTIC partnership, called by a term that aro people invented, should not cause anyone to doubt their aromanticism! Romantic people are not the only ones who are allowed to want a partner! Why? Because partnerships are not exclusively romantic! Read that again! And again and again until you grasp it.

Nothing nags me like having the following conversation with a fellow aro person:

“I want a relationship, just not with any of the romantic [or sexual] stuff.”

“So you want a committed friendship.”

“No, I want something that’s more than a friendship, but I don’t want an actual romantic relationship.”

“….. so you want a friendship that’s a partnership.”

“No, I want a relationship that isn’t romantic. Friendships don’t have all the things I want in a relationship.”

At which point, I internally sigh the biggest sigh and probably try once more to suggest that they want a queerplatonic partnership, which is just an alternative term for a centered, committed friendship which might be exclusive in some way.

This is a prime example of an aromantic person having aromantic feelings and desires that they think about in romantic people terms. I get that most, if not all, the people any given aro interacts with on a day to day to basis are going to be ignorant romantics who have no idea what aromanticism is, what queerplatonic partnerships are, or that there’s anything possible in the realm of relationships outside of their own standard de facto primary romantic partnership. But come on, aros—learn to de-romanticize your mind and your language, for fuck’s sake. If you’re not romantic, there’s no good reason why you should be thinking and talking like one, especially when it contributes to romantic social and cultural dominance. There’s certainly no good reason why you should be talking and thinking like romantic people when you’re in aromantic spaces.

Anyway, this usage of the word “relationship” that is consistent with romantic culture, paired with the denial of wanting a friendship to be at the center of your social life, is pure internalized-amatonormativity being expressed. I’ve raged before about how utterly ridiculous and frustrating it is that romantic people even use the word “relationship” to exclusively, specifically denote romantic partnerships, and I would like to point out once again that this is a linguistic indicator of the romance supremacy that romantic society has institutionalized. In this dialogue with the brainwashed aro, we see the same old, tired idea that friendship is inferior to “[romantic] relationships,” and the corresponding idea that only romantic relationships can be partnerships, even though it’s directly at odds with what the aro person says they want: a nonromantic relationship.

Friendships are relationships. So fuck off out of here, romantic society, with your attitude that only romantic relationships are worthy of the word “relationship.” Aromantic people, PLEASE start paying attention to how amatonormativity and romance supremacy continue to live in your language and your mind, and start actively uninstalling it by speaking and thinking differently. See, once you understand that romantic people use the word “relationship” to exclusively mean “romantic relationship” and that they also consider “romantic relationship” and “primary partnership” to be irrevocably synonymous, and once you understand that what you’re looking for is a nonromantic partnership, it just doesn’t make any sense to say that you want “a relationship” the way romantic people do. Saying you want “a relationship” that isn’t romantic, yet refusing to call it friendship, is illogical. And it reflects the problematic, illogical status of romantic people using “relationship” to specifically mean romantic relationship in the first place. Any active connection between two human beings is a relationship, period. Not all relationships are partnerships. Not all partnerships are romantic relationships. If what you want is a nonromantic partnership, just use those words—and don’t be afraid to also call it a friendship.

“But, dude,” the brainwashed aro wants to say, “all the friendships I’ve ever had with romantic people have never come close to the kind of partnership I want with someone, and I know these friends of mine wouldn’t want to partner up with me unless we became romantically involved. The only kind of friendship I’m aware of is the less involved, non-committed, unemotional, non-intimate, non-physically affectionate, super casual kind that always without exception comes second to my friend’s romantic relationship. So this partnership I want can’t possibly be a friendship.”

Well, my dear aro, let me set you straight.

First of all, for the love of God, please go get some aro friends. Friendship between two people who are aro, perma-single, and friendship-centric is from a different fucking universe than friendship between an aro and your garden variety romantic person. Learn this for yourself.

Second of all, you need to understand something: the way romantic people do relationships is not the only way for human beings to do them. You are not limited by romantic people’s language, desires, practices, beliefs, or anything else—in terms of what is possible for you, what you’re free to do, what you actually feel and desire. Friendship itself is not limited to what romantic people are capable of making it. You, aro person, are not living within a fixed, universal romantic reality that you cannot escape. You are free and capable of creating relationships in your own life that don’t exist in romantic people’s lives, and when you talk about these relationships, you are not obligated to explain them or label them for the purpose of getting romantic people to understand them. And you can’t do that, anyway. You just end up distorting the truth of what your relationships—your friendships—are and allow romantic people to believe that nothing exists outside their own worldview.

What friendship can be in your life, as an aromantic person, is never limited by what it is in romantic society. What friendship can be in your life has nothing to do with what it is in the lives of romantic people. What friendship CAN be in your life is not even limited by what your friendships with romantic people have historically been like. You could meet a compatible aromantic tomorrow who wants everything you want in a nonromantic partnership and become friends, and if your friendship grew into that partnership you both want, it would still be friendship. It would be a friendship unlike any other you’ve previously had, but it would be friendship all the same. Not romance.

I’ve said this before but it always bears repeating: partnerships are not exclusively, inherently romantic. Wanting a partnership, as someone aromantic, is not the same thing as wanting romantic relationships. The thing is, for ROMANTIC people, a partnership is equivalent to romantic relationship; they can’t conceive of being (primary) partners with someone nonromantically. Their romantic feelings create a desire for partnership, and their desire for partnership is romantic by default. This is why they so often make the mistake of believing that you can only be aromantic if you have no desire or interest in partnerships whatsoever, and that aros are all satisfied with normative friendships being the only relationships in our lives. When romantic people mentally subtract “romantic feelings/desires” from the aro person, they imagine the aromantic individual as someone identical to themselves but without the romantic portion of their nature. In reality, an aromantic person is not some walking half-human who’s missing romantic capabilities the way an amputee is missing a limb. The aromantic person is whole and wired differently than romantic people altogether. It’s obvious that in many, many cases, aromantic people have an emotional make-up that’s different than that of romantics: not only in what aros don’t feel but in what they DO feel—for friends, nonromantic partners, even family.

 

Being willing to settle for romantic relationships, in the absence of nonromantic partnership, is not the same thing as actually WANTING romantic relationships. Desperate people will do all kinds of things they normally wouldn’t do, to fill an urgent need—and loneliness, touch starvation, an intense desire for love can make human beings desperate. Aromantics who want emotional intimacy, companionship, love, a friend they can always depend on, someone who will treat them like they’re important, can be desperate for those things to a point where they’ll take romantic relationships instead of trying to wait it out for a queerplatonic partnership while dealing with their disappointing normative friendships with romantic people. It’s sort of like putting a vegetarian in a position where they can either meat or starve. They may hold out for a long time, if their vegetarianism means a lot to them, but most people are going to fold and eat meat before they reach the point of death. This is very similar to asexuals who routinely enter mixed romantic relationships in which they have sex; in that scenario, their desire for romantic partnership is so strong, that they’d rather put up with sex—even if they’re averse, repulsed, and/or don’t experience any physical pleasure from it—than be single for long periods of time. It’s a “lesser of two evils” situation. Presented with what they truly desire—a nonromantic partnership or a nonsexual romantic relationship—the aro or ace in question would choose that immediately. But if they perceive the only two options being “romantic-sexual relationship” or “none of my core emotional/physical needs being met,” then many will ultimately choose to try the romantic-sexual relationship.

I’m not going to harp on cupioromanticism at length again because I think I’ve said all I have to say about it, but it bears noting here that the concept of an aromantic person—someone who never experiences romantic attraction, romantic love, etc—wanting romantic relationships specifically (not just a partnership, but a relationship that is labeled romantic, perceived as romantic, and had with someone who is romantically attracted to the aro) is closely related to this relationship availability problem, in addition to the fact that we all live in a culture saturated with amatonormativity.

What cupioromantics and other romance-willing aromantic people say is: “I don’t experience romantic feelings, but I want to participate in romantic relationships.”

But frequently, the truth is more like this: “I don’t experience romantic feelings, but I want at least one connection with another human being that meets my needs and desires for emotional closeness, companionship, loyalty, attention, affection, physical intimacy, commitment, love, intentional togetherness, priority, etc. And because I live in this fucked up world dominated by romantic people, in an overwhelmingly amatonormative culture where aromanticism is invisible and scorned and friendship is treated like worthless trash, because romantic people outnumber aros like me millions to one and because they’re only capable of normative romantic partnerships and casual friendship, because it’s much easier to meet these romantic people who think in this amatonormative way than it is to meet other aromantic people who think and feel the way I do, and because I would rather not wait for years or even decades to meet just one person who I could have a friendship with that meets my needs and desires and be single in the meantime without those needs and desires met, I am willing to do romantic relationships with romantic people because at least then, I’ll get much of what I want from a partnership even if it never quite lines up right with my nature and my core desire for a nonromantic friendship that is also a primary partnership. Basically, romance is better than loneliness, solitude, and social insignificance, and doing relationships just like the vast majority of humankind is way easier than being a major social deviant and dealing with all the bullshit that goes along with that.”

Obviously, it’s easier to use the first description. Especially if you’re not self-aware enough to understand why, as someone who doesn’t have a single romantic feeling whatsoever, you would still want romantic relationships.

Settling for romantic relationships when you’re aro, because you’d rather be romantically coupled than not have any kind of significant connection at all, may be understandable, but it still just perpetuates the romance-dominated, amatonormative culture and society that makes life hard for aromantics in the first place. Instead of making yourself available to other aros who want a nonromantic partnership, you join the ranks of romantic people in romantic relationships. Instead of standing up for friendship and nonromantic partnership as legitimate, possible, and desirable, instead of calling romantic people out on their bullshit attitudes about friendship vs. romance, instead of actually trying to change the world for the better, you just quietly disappear into the ranks of romantic couples and allow romantic society to continue believing that the only way they know how to live and love really is The Only Way. And on a more personal, individual level, you aren’t doing anything to deconstruct and heal your own internalized amatonormativity and anti-aromanticism and singlism and romance supremacy. Romantic society has colonized your mind, and you’re going to let that stand.

But you don’t have to. You don’t have to blindly, unconditionally accept romantic ways of thinking, speaking, and being. You don’t have to do relationships the way romantic people do them. You don’t have to give up on improving the world for aromantic people before you even start, just because it’s hard. If the only thing you ever do for the aro community is get right with yourself on the inside, cleanse your mind of internalized romantic crap, and start living and talking and thinking in such a way that is clearly aromantic, that will be enough.

Start respecting friendship, not just in your own life but as a social form. Start questioning everything you hear romantic people say and what you see them do. Listen to yourself and make sure that you aren’t regurgitating some toxic anti-aromantic, anti-friendship nonsense that everyone takes for granted as normal and true. Don’t let the amatonormative system take queerplatonic friendship discourse away from the aro community. Don’t allow the fucked up, distorted image of aromanticism that romantic society would have you believe, make you doubt your own identity and emotions. Set out to be an aro-positive person living an aro-positive life.

Take a Hint from the Gay Struggle, Aromantics

I’ve written at length why I’m opposed to “cupioromanticism” as an identity, particularly an identity that’s supposed to be a branch of aromanticism instead of gray-romanticism. But one thing I haven’t said before on this subject is the following:

Notice how nobody’s felt the need to create a new identity category for homosexuals who wish they were heterosexual, who want heterosexual relationships, and who choose to participate in heterosexuality instead of homosexuality. Whenever we hear of a gay person expressing their despair, shame, and self-loathing for their own homosexuality, we generally don’t encourage them to pursue heterosexuality even if, at the time, they think that they want to be straight. They’re not straight. In all likelihood, they will never be straight, even if they have all the straight sex and romance in the world. And unless you’re a fundamental Christian/conservative/Republican, it should be obvious to you that the only reason any gay person would wish they were straight is because we live in a historically oppressive heteronormative society that has, until recently, produced only one message: being straight is good, and and being gay is bad.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If a gay person, who’s at peace with being gay, chooses to have straight sex and straight romance and that makes them happy, they can knock themselves out. I won’t judge them or try to convince them to just go with their gay nature. I recognize that there are legitimate motivations for someone gay to live like a straight person. Hell, I recognize there are legitimate reasons for someone straight to live like a gay person.

But feeling bad about your own orientation, wishing you had the most accepted, common, and culturally lauded identity as you grapple with the emotional and psychological toll of being different, is not something that needs to be supported, encouraged, and conceptualized as an identity–an identity which then demands protection and validation. Wanting to want something you don’t actually want isn’t a basis for a sexual or romantic identity. When a young gay person expresses anguish about their homosexuality and claims they wish they were straight and might even go so far as to live in the closet while participating in heterosexuality, we don’t pat them on the back and tell them they’re a new kind of heterosexual. We recognize that they’re suffering from internalized homophobia and heterosexism and struggling to be true to themselves in this toxic world. And if we’re decent human beings, we try to help them process that homophobia and heterosexism and empower them as gay or queer individuals, so that they can live their lives with authenticity.

Why should we treat aromantics and asexuals any differently? How is it possible that the same people who would seek to liberate gays, lesbians, and queers from homophobia and heterosexism and compulsory heterosexuality could then turn around and agree with the concept of cupioromanticism?

Well, amatonormativity is a much less well-known concept than heterosexism and homophobia are, for one thing. For another, if you yourself are still completely under the influence of amatonormativity, if you still believe in it yourself, then of course you’re going to respond to aromanticism and the concept of cupioromanticism in ways that support amatonormativity rather than threaten it. The fact of the matter is, most human beings–straight and LGBQ–are romantic. Pretty much all romantic people live, believe in, and benefit from amatonormativity. Yes, that includes gay, bisexual, pansexual, and queer romantics. It includes romantic asexuals too. Most people aren’t even aware that amatonormativity is a thing, never mind having the knowledge and the tools to start questioning it.

So when some young aromantic-spectrum person tries to talk about how they’re feeling and experiencing aromanticism and all of the big picture implications of being aro, they’re most likely to get feedback from the very people who create, participate, perpetuate, and support the amatonormative, romance supremacist social system that causes aromantics to resist their own aromanticism. Tell someone romantic that you wish you were like them, and what do you think they’re going to say? Tell someone romantic that you want romantic relationships, even though you’ve never felt a romantic emotion in your life and might not be capable of doing so, and what are they going to tell you? You think romantic people are going to say, “Don’t worry, honey, being aro is totally cool, and friendship is just as good as romance and if you want a nonromantic partner, it can happen!”

Has any romantic person EVER said that to any openly aromantic person since aromanticism became an identity? Have any of them ever said anything remotely like that and meant it 100%? Because I know that I for one have never fucking heard anything like that come out of an alloromantic’s mouth in direct address to me. Not even in the asexual community. Oh, sure, I’ve received some lukewarm, vague acceptance from the romantic-sexual people I’ve come out to in real life, but never anything that approached affirmation. And I’m willing to bet money that most aros who are are out online, most of the people who claim to be cupioromantic, (who are, by the way, almost always high school or college kids), have never heard anything like those affirmative, aro-positive statements from anyone they know in real life either. Not once. If they’ve even identified themselves as aromantic in person, in the first place. And you KNOW that there is nothing pro-aromantic anywhere in mainstream media, whether you’re talking about TV, movies, music, or books. It just doesn’t exist.

So you can understand, I hope, my intense and justified skepticism of cupioromantics and the people who agree with and support the identity without any intelligent question. If I heard a heterosexual tell an unhappy gay kid, “Don’t worry, it’s totally fine that you want to be straight! You can be straight if you want to be, it’s all good. Go ahead and have straight sex and straight romantic relationships and get into a straight marriage, if that’ll make you happy!”, I would be side eyeing the fuck out of that person. And then I would go to the gay kid, and say, “Hey. Fuck heterosexuality. You need to learn that being gay’s all right, and you can have a good, happy life as a gay person.”

Getting individual deviants to conform to fucked up, bullshit socio-cultural norms in the name of “happiness,” instead of destroying the norms that can make any deviant unhappy, is not kindness. It’s reinforcement of prejudice and the marginalization of sexual minorities. It’s protecting the garbage system.

So self-proclaimed cupioromantics and their sympathizers can dig in their heels and disagree with me all they want, but unless you’ve done the extensive and ongoing work of dismantling a lifetime’s worth of internalized amatonormativity, anti-aromanticism, and romance supremacy, and unless you’re out there affirming and encouraging and praising all the aromantics who reject romantic relationships permanently–sexual and asexual–and who choose either to be unpartnered or to pursue queerplatonic partnerships, I don’t care what your reasons are for defending cupioromanticism. They’re flawed. And I certainly don’t care about your opinion if you’re romantic.