Aromanticism and Asexuality: Myths vs. Realities
In my debut supernatural thriller, Ethereal Malignance, one of the characters in this eerie and unsettling world is aro-ace—that’s aromantic and asexual if you’re unfamiliar with the term.
And in light of it now being Ace Week (23 to 30 October, formerly known as Asexual Awareness Week), an international week to spread awareness of ace-spec people, I wanted to do my part in helping out.
There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding aromantic and asexual orientations, and many people who are completely unaware of the identities at all. So, I decided to take a moment to do my part in clearing up some misconceptions. This article aims to debunk some of the most prevalent myths, misunderstandings, and misconceptions about aromantic and asexual people. Whether you’re a reader, a writer, or just someone looking to expand your understanding, this guide is for you.
Note that I myself am not asexual nor aromantic, and that this is just the efforts of an ally to the community so if there are any mistakes below it’s my fault and no one else’s. You should always listen to what aro and ace people say over what I’m saying.
But before we begin, let’s make sure we have a common understanding of terms relevant to this topic:
Glossary of Terms
A person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others.
A person who experiences little or no sexual attraction to others.
A person who identifies as both aromantic and asexual.
Demi- and Grey-
“Demi-” refers to individuals who experience sexual or romantic attraction only after certain conditions are met. These conditions can range from forming a strong emotional bond to intellectual connections or shared interests. Examples include demisexual and demiromantic individuals. “Grey-” describes a spectrum of experiences that fall between sexual and asexual or romantic and aromantic, capturing the variability in experiences like greysexual and greyromantic.”
Allosexual and Alloromantic (Allo)
Allosexual refers to a person who experiences sexual attraction and is not on the asexual spectrum. Alloromantic refers to a person who experiences romantic attraction and is not on the aromantic spectrum.
A relationship that is more emotionally intense than a friendship but does not fit societal norms of a romantic relationship.
Split Attraction Model
The concept that romantic and sexual attraction can be experienced separately and may not align. Examples include ace lesbians, where the person is romantically attracted to women but not sexually, or aromantic bisexual, where the person is romantically attracted to their own gender and others but they are not romantically attracted to any gender. There are many different combinations and these were just two examples.
The societal expectation that romantic relationships are universally desired and superior to other types of relationships.
The societal expectation that everyone should desire sexual activity and that it is a natural and essential part of being human.
Some Different Types of Attraction
- Aesthetic Attraction: Attraction to someone based on their appearance, without it being romantic or sexual.
- Sensual Attraction: Desire to engage in sensual activities that are not explicitly sexual, such as cuddling or hugging.
- Platonic Attraction: Desire to form a close emotional bond that is not romantic or sexual in nature.
- Sexual Attraction: Attraction to someone based on a desire for sexual activities.
- Romantic Attraction: Attraction to someone based on a desire for a romantic relationship.
Myths and Realities
Myth: Asexuality and aromanticism are about low sex drive or fear of relationships.
Reality: These orientations are distinct and not rooted in fear or low drive. Asexuality refers to a lack of sexual attraction, while aromanticism refers to a lack of romantic attraction.
Myth: If you’re asexual, you must also be aromantic, and vice versa.
Reality: Asexuality and aromanticism are distinct orientations. One can be asexual without being aromantic, and one can be aromantic without being asexual. The experiences and identities within these spectrums are diverse. Having said that, some people are both asexual and aromantic.
Myth: Phrases like “You just haven’t met the right person yet” or “You’re too young to know” are valid observations.
Reality: These statements dismiss the individual’s orientation as a phase or result of inexperience, which is both disrespectful and incorrect.
Myth: Everyone should desire romantic and/or sexual relationships.
Reality: This expectation can make asexual and aromantic individuals feel abnormal, pressuring them to conform to norms that don’t align with their true selves.
Myth: Asexual and aromantic individuals must be lonely or unhappy.
Reality: Happiness and fulfillment are not solely derived from romantic or sexual relationships. Are some ace and aro people lonely or unhappy? Sure, just as can be true of any group of people.
Myth: Being asexual or aromantic is the result of trauma or a medical condition.
Reality: This harmful assumption pathologises these orientations and can lead to unwarranted medical interventions.
Myth: Being asexual or aromantic is a choice, akin to celibacy.
Reality: These are orientations, not choices. Celibacy is a lifestyle choice, often for religious reasons.
Myth: Asexual and aromantic individuals don’t experience any form of attraction.
Reality: Many experience different types of attraction—like aesthetic, sensual, and platonic—that are often misunderstood.
Myth: These orientations are phases or related to late development.
Reality: These are valid orientations that are not dependent on a timeline.
Myth: Asexual or aromantic individuals are against romance or sex.
Reality: Individuals may still engage in these activities; they simply don’t experience attraction in the same way. Having said that, some people are against romance and sex, but it’s not true of every aro or ace person.
Myth: These individuals can’t have satisfying relationships.
Reality: Relationships come in many forms and can be fulfilling in various ways. Aro and ace people can engage in romantic and sexual relationships, respectively, if they want to. It’s just that many do not.
Myth: Asexuality and aromanticism don’t intersect with other identities.
Reality: These orientations can intersect with other identities, such as being transgender, non-binary, bisexual, lesbian, etc.
Myth: All experiences within these orientations are the same.
Reality: Just like any other orientation, there’s a spectrum of experiences and feelings.
Myth: Asexual and aromantic individuals fit into specific roles or appearances, like the “nerdy” or “androgynous” character.
Reality: Stereotypes reduce complex identities to simplistic tropes.
Myth: I can change them.
Reality: An incorrect and toxic attitude. Don’t do this.
Navigating the world as an aromantic or asexual individual—or as someone who identifies with both—can be like walking through a thriller landscape: fraught with misunderstandings, assumptions, and sometimes, outright erasure. By dispelling these myths and misconceptions, we can all contribute to a more inclusive and understanding society. So always remember that the diversity of human experience is broader than any genre can capture. And that’s not just a plot twist; it’s reality.
Aro and ace flag banner image from https://twitter.com/aspecpositivity