So unless you spend a lot of time hanging out in asexual and/or aromantic circles online or in person, you probably think that asexuality and aromanticism are narrow categories of orientation: either you’re asexual or allosexual, aromantic or alloromantic. I want to clarify that asexuality and aromanticism are both spectrums of identity.
The asexual spectrum includes: asexuality, demisexuality, and gray-asexuality.
The aromantic spectrum includes: aromanticism, demiromanticism, and gray-aromanticism.
I’ve already written a fairly thorough 101 post about demisexuality and gray-asexuality that you can find over here, but let’s briefly review how they differ from full-blown asexuality.
Asexuals do not experience sexual attraction and/or directed sexual desire, meaning that they do not feel an involuntary desire to have partnered sex with other human beings for their own pleasure. They don’t have involuntary sexual thoughts and feelings about other people based on looks, personality, or any other quality.
Demisexuals can experience sexual attraction and desire for others but only after they’ve developed an emotional connection or attachment to someone, whether that attachment is romantic or nonromantic. Demisexuals are basically asexual until and unless they meet someone, get close to them, feel connected to them emotionally, and then at some point start to feel sexual attraction/desire for that person. They don’t experience sexual attraction/desire to strangers, celebrities, acquaintances, blind dates, people they think are good-looking but don’t know or don’t have any emotional connection to.
Gray-asexuals come in a variety of types: some gray-a’s rarely experience sexual attraction, some gray-a’s experience sexual attraction regularly or semi-regularly but rarely or never feel the desire to follow through and engage in partnered sex, some gray-a’s experience sexual attraction infrequently and are sex-repulsed, some gray-a’s can only experience sexual attraction to a partner during a kink session, some gray-a’s experience sexual attraction regularly but have no libido, some gray-a’s experience sexual attraction but don’t actually care about having sex enough to bother and are perfectly content to be celibate. People who experience sexual attraction regularly but are repulsed by partnered sex can also identify as gray-asexual, if they want to.
Aromantic-spectrum identities correspond to the asexual-spectrum.
Aromantics do not experience romantic attraction or the desire to form normative romantic relationships with other people. (Note: like asexuals who end up in sexual relationships, aromantics can end up in romantic relationships, despite not having an ongoing and abstract interest in them. This is especially true for aromantic allosexuals, who can easily end up dating a sexual partner, even when they’re not romantically attracted to them.) For an in-depth exploration of aromanticism, please check out my Aromantic Primer.
Demiromantics can experience romantic attraction but only after they’ve developed an emotional attachment to someone. Basically, demiromantics only ever fall in love with people they’re already pretty good friends with. They’re not going to feel romantic attraction to a total stranger they aren’t close to, not even after 10 dates. The actual amount of time it takes a demiromantic person to feel romantic attraction to a friend varies by person and situation, just like sexual attraction does for demisexuals. Demiromantics may still only experience romantic feelings sporadically or rarely.
Gray-aromantics may: rarely experience romantic attraction, experience romantic attraction but feel repulsed by romantic relationships and never actually want to get involved in them, experience a kind of emotional attraction that cannot easily be defined as “romantic” or “nonromantic,” want queerplatonic or other gray-area relationships regardless of their attraction experience.
Subtypes of gray-aromantics also include WTFromantics and lithromantics. Lithromantics fall in love with people romantically but don’t actually want or need that romantic attraction to be reciprocated. They’re happy just to feel romantic attraction to someone, with nothing coming of it. “WTFromantic” is a term coined in the asexual community out of frustration with the whole “What is romantic attraction and how is it different from emotional attraction?” mystery. It basically describes people who can’t tell the difference between romantic attraction and nonromantic emotional attraction at all, not even enough to say “I’m definitely aromantic” as opposed to “I’m definitely romantic.” The whole concept of romantic attraction/love vs. nonromantic feelings/friendship just doesn’t compute to WTFromantic people, so they give up trying to figure it out and put themselves in an aromantic or romantic identity box.