An Introduction to Asexuality and Aromanticism: Valentine's Day

What is it?

Two orientations I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard of are asexuality, experiencing little to no sexual attraction, and aromanticism, experiencing little to no romantic attraction. It may seem strange, complicated, or even impossible to not experience those types of feelings, but we are here, and most importantly, we are valid.

 

 

Flag photos courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

These orientations are talked about so infrequently because the majority of the population is the opposite: allosexual or alloromantic, meaning someone who experiences sexual or romantic attraction, respectively. In fact, the asexual community is only about 1% of the population, and aromanticism is even less common. Asexual, when referring to a person, is usually shortened to “ace”, while aromantic is shortened to “aro”.

 

Just like any other sexuality or romantic orientation, there is a spectrum! Referred to as the “ace spectrum” or “a-spec”, you can place anywhere on it, and even move around. You can be any combination of things, as well! You can be heterosexual and aromantic, asexual and panromantic, biromantic and homosexual, or even aromantic and asexual. The combinations are endless! This “and” is extremely important, as the fact that sexual and romantic attraction are separate often goes unmentioned, since they usually overlap.

 

Photo credit: http://theburr.com/demisexual/

And that's not even the full spectrum!! Check the references section below to learn more!

 

Why haven’t I heard of it?

 

 

Photo courtesy of RedBubble.

 

The reason why you probably haven’t heard of these orientations is because of this widely-held societal idea of amatonormativity, or the thought that a relationship is a universal and necessary experience, often more important than platonic relationships. This idea is harmful, even to people who aren’t on the ace spectrum.

This amatonormativity contributes heavily to the erasure that we face. In books, music, movies, TV shows, or literally anywhere else, you’ll see romantic or sexual relationships being focused on, or at least brought up, to the extent that its hard to find content that doesn’t deal with either type of relationship. Even within the LGBT+ community, erasure is common. Firstly, people think the “A” in LGBTQIA+ is for “ally”. WRONG. The LGBT+ community also tends to think that we aren’t actually LGBT and don’t deserve a place in the community, since we apparently don’t experience discrimination. ALSO WRONG. Any a-spec person is inherently LGBT, and we do experience discrimination, even though it may be different than a gay, trans, or bi person’s experiences.   

 

Because of this erasure and amatonormativity, people who are on the spectrum usually don’t realize it until past their late teens, as the terminology just isn’t used. Growing up, people on the ace spectrum often feel broken, undeserving, or just plain different, and this isn’t helped by our cultural norms and the myths surrounding the ace spectrum.

 

Valentine’s Day :/

 

So with all this, it’s understandably tough around Valentine’s Day. A day meant to celebrate love? No thanks! Many a-spec people feel lonely, excluded, and misunderstood on V-Day. Here are some ~insider~ opinions on Valentine’s Day and growing up a-spec.

 

“As an aromantic person, I don’t really know how to feel about Valentine’s Day. I love pink, chocolate, flowers, and those giant teddy bears, but everything else that goes along with it makes me want to cringe so hard it might give me permanent neck damage. Valentine’s Day has spread into a commercial monster. Literal children give each other valentines in their elementary school classrooms, and high school students base their self esteem off of how many $1 carnations they can collect. As if forcing weird romantic habits on 6 year olds wasn’t bad enough, it feels like people are parading around shoving their relationship in my face. And if you’re not in a relationship, it’s an excuse to complain about other people’s relationships or how desperately you want to be in a relationship. I’m hyperaware of when people all of sudden become weirdly fixated on love. Really I just don’t understand this entire hullabaloo. How great would it be if Valentine’s Day was an excuse to shower your friends and family in flowers, candy, and lots of platonic love, not a race to brag about how much other people are willing to express their feelings for you? So, enjoy your relationship all you want, have fun, but do it together and alone, because some of us would rather punch a dolphin in the face then watch you make out with your partner on Instagram“ -Hanna, 19, aromantic

 

“For me, Valentine’s Day can still be really fun. I’m not aromantic, so dates, chocolate and flowers all still really appeal to me. But there is still an idea that a Valentine’s Day date will lead to… more later that night, and that’s where it loses me. Asexuality is a pretty big spectrum - some folks still like the physical act, some folks enjoy fantasizing, some folks don’t want to touch sex with a ten foot pole. That would be me. It does not mean that were I to be in a relationship I would automatically be like, “Stay back, fiend, with your scary lady parts!” But it does mean that pretty much on principal… I’m not interested.

I know for most of the world this can be pretty confusing. To be honest, it was pretty confusing for me at first, too. When discovering sexuality, the conversation and thought process usually centers around who I’d want to “do the do” with, not whether I’d want to do it at all. For a while this was confusing and frustrating. I would talk with my friends who were all experimenting and trying new things and I felt like there was something wrong with me because I could not understand or empathize with them. It was not until the middle of senior year of high school that I came across the term “asexuality” and found the a-spec community that I finally began to understand that what I was feeling - or rather not feeling - was okay.

I do not feel like I am missing anything and believe me, I know even though I have not tried it. Being ace also does not mean I am a “prude” or I cannot hear about sex, it just has to do with the way I navigate life. I promise that I am living a full, healthy and happy life even without sex - I know, it sounds impossible. But just as whether someone is gay or straight or bi or trans is the way they were born, it’s the same thing with me being ace. So this Valentine’s Day, remember that not everyone’s goal is to “get some” by the end of the night - and that is okay.” -Emily, 20, asexual

 

Want more info?

 

Visit any of these sites below:

 

http://www.asexuality.org/

http://www.asexualityarchive.com/

http://wiki.asexuality.org/Aromantic_FAQ

And for some laughs: https://twitter.com/a_sexy_asexual?lang=en

 

Header image courtesy of Amino Apps.