So, these are a few things that can help asexual and aromantic people, especially in the book/writing community. And yup, I know it’s Asexual Awareness Week only, but it wouldn’t make sense to make two posts saying similar things.
PS: I obviously only speak for myself and not for the asexual and aromantic communities as a whole, though I’m pretty sure many aces & aros agree with most things below. Please few free to suggest more stuff or to correct me if you are asexual or aromantic!
- LGBTQIA instead of LGBT.
Here is the thing: some sections of the queer community are super acephobic and arophobic. Tumblr nowadays is the most acephobic/arophobic space you will find on the internet. It’s impossible to be ace or aro on Tumblr and survive the ace discourse unscathed, so it’s common for ace & aro people who have seen the ugliness of Tumblr to be wary of everything in this community. Now, for example, I’m used to checking someone’s blog and Twitter before I follow them – and by checking I mean using every single variation of asexual/asexuality/ace on their tags/search to see if they have posted something acephobic. Or using the Twitter search thing to see if the person has mentioned ace or aro people in the past.
It might seem too much, but acephobia and arophobia trigger me something fierce, so I try to protect myself in the best way I can and that means not following people when I’m not sure if they are ace/aro-friendly. LGBTQIA helps a lot with that – if you use it, I automatically assume you are okay with ace and aro people. And yes, I know LGBTQIA is a mouthful and that it can be hard to use on Twitter because character limit, but when possible it is, in my opinion, a better alternative.
(More on the LGBTQIA acronym here on my last post).
- Being human = feeling sexual attraction.
Now, that’s something that is so ingrained in our way of thinking that sometimes we don’t even notice what we are doing. Our society sees sexual attraction as something inherently human, something that every human ever feels, and sex, of course, as something every human seeks. Someone who doesn’t want sex and/or doesn’t feel sexual attraction is usually seen as a prude, as someone repressed or that needs to be fixed. Needless to say, most people affected by such notions are asexual people. We are constantly dehumanized for our lack of sexual attraction and that doesn’t happen only through big things and outright acephobia. Phrases like “of course I kissed/had sex with them, I’m human” or “of course I’m attracted to them, I’m not made of stone” are good examples of acephobic migroaggressions. Implying that sexual attraction is what makes us human or that it is linked to someone’s humanity is acephobic.
- Being human = feeling romantic attraction.
Similarly, thinking that feeling romantic attraction is what makes us human is arophobic. Aromantic people are dehumanized for not feeling romantic attraction and if you are aromantic and allosexual (that is, not asexual), you are also hypersexualized and seen as manipulative, heartless and even cruel. Obviously, falling in love has no relation to your capacity of being a decent human being, and saying or implying otherwise is harmful to aromantic people.
- What asexuality and aromanticism are.
Asexuality is different from not wanting or liking sex. Similarly, aromanticism is different from not wanting/liking to date. Asexual people are not people who chose to not have sex and aromantic people are not people who chose to only have sex. Both are about attraction and not behavior.
Some ace people like and enjoy sex. Some are repulsed by it. Some are indifferent. The same goes for aro people – some like and enjoy romance, some are repulsed by it, some don’t care. It depends on the person and not on the sexuality/romantic orientation.
There are also many shades of asexuality and aromanticism, the most known being grayasexual/grayromantic (only feels sexual/romantic attraction rarely and/or under certain circumstances) and demiromantic/demisexual (only feels sexual/romantic attraction if a close bond is present). So yes, some ace & aro people feel sexual attraction/fall in love. That’s why we have the ace spectrum and the aro spectrum (or the a-spec for both).
- Romantic love x platonic love.
That’s a tricky one because romantic love might be above platonic love for you, but it certainly isn’t for everyone, especially for aromantic people. And yet it is depicted all the time in books and movies and TV shows as the most powerful kind of love, which of course leave us aros in the dust. It is also, in my opinion, linked to the stereotype that aromantic people aren’t capable of feeling love – that is, since some of us can’t feel romantic love aka the most powerful, meaningful and important love of all, sure it means we can’t feel love at all, right? And for some aro people platonic love is everything we will ever experience, so phrases like “just friends” and “more than friends” can be a real punch in the gut. Platonic love is just as important as romantic love.
- Aromantic people can feel lonely.
It’s pretty common to police aromantic people’s feelings about being single. It happens all the time, especially when arophobic people want to prove that aromanticism doesn’t exist or that all aromantic people are faking it. There is this pressure – coming even from other aros – to act like we are always 100% okay with being alone, since every “slip” can be used to discredit the whole community. Here’s the thing though: it’s okay for aromantic people to feel alone even when we don’t feel romantic attraction and/or don’t want to date anyone. Everything in our society is centered around romantic relationships – families, media, everything. Platonic love is constantly dismissed in favor of romantic love and the biggest, most famous stories humanity has ever told are about people falling in love. When you are aromantic and 100% sure that you are never going to date anyone, all this can be daunting. It can be scary. It can be lonely. And it’s okay to feel lonely – it’s okay to feel like you are missing out. So we need to be given space to feel all of it without people screaming that we aren’t aromantic after all. We are – but society isn’t, and dealing with it can be tiresome.
- Romantic relationship without sex.
Every once in a while I tweet about reviews that are super acephobic. I usually find them on Goodreads, but really, they are everywhere, especially in reviews of romances (in reviews of m/m books then… well). The lack of sex in a romantic relationship is often seen as something awful, childish (!) and even unrealistic (again, especially if two men are involved). Now, I’m sure these reviewers mean no harm, but these reviews are harmful. A relationship can work without sex and stating otherwise is acephobic. Many aces in relationship with allosexual people are often shamed and called egoistic for not wanting sex and many times partners who once said they were okay with not having sex turn violent when constantly denied (you guess it) sex.
Now, sure, a romantic relationship without sex isn’t for everyone. Many allosexual people are not okay with that and that’s completely fine. The problem is the generalization. Many romantic relationships work without sex and many with sex don’t work. Sex isn’t the only way a couple can bond and couples who never have sex can be just as close and in love as those who do.
- Listen and believe aromantic & asexual people.
I think that’s the most important thing you can do. Asexual and aromantic people are not a monolith. We have different experiences and different opinions. That’s normal and perfectly okay, so listen to many of us and not just one.
It’s also necessary to believe us when we talk about the stuff we go through. It’s pretty common to see people dismissing asexuality and aromanticism because they think we have it easy or that we don’t face any kind of discrimination, but many aro & ace people go through conversion therapy, corrective rape and medical abuse. And, of course, discrimination, dehumanization and the isolation that comes from being discriminated/dehumanized or from not knowing what you are and what is different about you. So when an asexual and/or aromantic person says something related to their asexuality/aromanticism, listen. And, more importantly, believe us.
Well, that’s all. I hope this post helps and thank you for reading!