what does it mean to be asexual or aromantic?

The Basics of Sexual Attraction

Two overarching categories define sexualities: the allosexual spectrum and the asexual spectrum. Allosexuals are those who feel sexual attraction towards people. Under this category are the more well-known sexualities, such as heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, among others. There are other umbrella terms and categories that help to organize specific identities, but all people who are attracted to others can find their identity within the allosexual spectrum.

On the other hand, asexuals are people who do not feel sexual attraction. Some people use asexual as their main identity, typically referring to themselves as aces. However, other labels exist within the asexual spectrum. Some of these include gray-asexual, or frequently shortened to graysexual, which is when a person mostly identifies with the asexual community but does have some limited experiences with attraction. There is also demisexual, wherein a person does not feel sexual attraction until they form an emotional connection with the person.

The Basics of Romantic Attraction

While often thought to be intertwined, romantic attraction is different from sexual attraction and is a separate aspect of how a person identifies. Romantic attraction is the desire to be in a relationship with romantic interactions, emotionally and sensually, which does not inherently include sex. While sexual and romantic attraction usually aligns, people can have different preferences. 

Much like there are allosexual and asexual spectrums, there are also alloromantic and aromantic spectrums. Alloromantic labels, describing people who feel romantic attraction, include heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, and more. Aromantic people, also known as aros, can identify as aromantic, grayromantic, and demiromantic. These have the same definitions as asexual, graysexual, and demisexual, but deal with romantic attraction instead of sexual attraction.

More About Asexuality

People on the asexual spectrum make up about 1% of the global population, which is around 80 million people. Asexuality is a sexual orientation, much like heterosexuality and homosexuality. It is not a disorder, a hormone imbalance, nor is it a fear of intimacy. While these can be characteristics of members of the community, they are not a “cause” of asexuality. Aces are born that way, just like people are born straight or gay. It is also important to mention that sexuality is a label of sexual attraction, not sexual behavior. It is not a synonym for celibacy or abstinence. Aces can have sex, or not. They can masturbate, or not. It is up to each individual to decide their level of comfort with different aspects of intimacy, as is the case with anyone.

More About Aromanticity

With how little asexuality is researched, aromanticity is studied even less. There is very little information about how many people identify as aromantic. According to acesandaros.org, somewhere around 60% of aces are also on the aromantic spectrum: 30% identified as aro, 16% as demiromantic, and 14% as greyromatic. With people on the allosexual spectrum, a survey showed that about 4% identified as aromantic, but this statistic is from a specific population of people and cannot be assumed to be conclusive. Regardless of how many people are aromantic, it is still an orientation and should be given its proper credence. Aros are not heartless, unable to find a partner, or emotionally immature. They are not lonely or “missing out” on having a partner. In fact, many aros find companionship in the form of queerplatonic relationships, which involve intense emotional connections with someone that is deeper than a friendship but is not romantic. All in all, aromantic people have varying degrees of comfort with romantic relationships, but that doesn’t mean they are unable to love.

Being an Ally

There are many types and expressions of love, but they all center around common themes of compassion, acceptance, and respect. We all can do better by loving everyone as they are. It’s harmful to assume everyone is on the same path and looking for intimacy in what society has put forward as not just the idealized version of partnership, but the only acceptable version. It is time to de-pedestalize the traditional notions of relationships and learn to not only acknowledge but embrace everyone, no matter how they were born.

For more information, check out thetrevorproject.org, acesandaros.org, whatisasexuality.com, and lgbtq.unc.edu.

March 30, 2022

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