It’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week!
I’m taking this opportunity to talk about aromanticism rather than just shaking my fist and hissing fuck you amatonormativity at the sky. Who am I? I’m Penny, and I’m aromantic and asexual (also agender, and if they’re necessary my pronouns are ou/ou/ous/ous/ouself or they/them/their/theirs/themself) and I’m in a long-distance queerplatonic relationship. I’m posting reading recommendations on my Twitter every day and I’ll be blogging about writing aromanticism later in the week.
So let’s get into it! Aromanticism.
Aromanticism? The asexuality thing that isn’t asexuality? Because one is a sexual orientation and one is a romantic orientation? Because while you can be asexual and aromantic, you can also be asexual but not aromantic, or aromantic but not asexual?
It’s like, you know, you can be a fan of superhero comics but not the films, or you can be a fan of superhero films but not the comics, or you can be a fan of both, yeah? So, if someone’s talking excitedly about Thor 2, are you going to say, “I see you’re a Journey Into Mystery fan”? If someone reads a couple superhero comics a year but watches superhero films every single week, are you going to call them a comics fan instead of a films fan?
If a character is talking about how they’ve never had a romantic relationship, they’ve never been in love, they’ve never been interested in dating—that’s more of an aro than an ace thing.
If you’re talking about someone who’s “not interested in men/women” thus they’re asexual—well, are they asexual? Are they not sexually interested? Are they not romantically interested? Alloromantic asexuals can be interested romantically; aromantic allosexuals can be interested sexually.
If you mean aro, say aro. If you mean aroace, say that.
I know aromanticism is a new term, that for a while we were just asexuals and asexuals who didn’t date, but it’s here now and it’s incredibly important and useful.
As I said above, I’m both asexual and aromantic. “Penny has never dated and is asexual” is correct but “Penny has never dated because ou’s asexual” is not in the same way that “Penny was excited to meet Gail Simone because ou’s a huge fan of superhero films” is not correct. And it’s more than just semantics!
Being asexual is not a big deal to me, whereas being aromantic has affected me every day of my life. I did not get massively messed up headspace in high school because I was asexual. I did not think I was a broken inhuman lump of concrete because I was asexual. I did not get depressed and anxious about people’s reactions to my disinterest in dating because I was asexual. I did not get regularly insulted and told that some day the right man would brainwash me into wanting to date because I was asexual. I did not develop a massive crippling complex about how one day I would be all alone because all my friends would abandon me after they settled down because I was asexual. I did not come to dread watching romcoms because I was asexual. I did not stop reading YA because it didn’t hurt as much to read about men falling in love rather than teenage girls falling in love because I was asexual.
All of that happened because I’m aromantic. Being aromantic is important to me. The WORD “aromantic” is important to me. Much, much more important than “asexual” is. Me being aromantic is less normal than me being asexual. The concerns of most asexuals—alloromantic asexuals—are completely different to mine.
And you know what else would be great? If people started using “non-romantic” instead of “aromantic” to describe things which don’t have romance in them. Sure, it’s not romantic, but it’s still not safe for me. There is the understanding that the characters are still normal, that there is romance between the lines or after the credits, that they’re single for now. (And for fuck’s sake, Pacific Rim is not aromantic; Pacific Rim is a romance without a kiss. I mean, sure, okay, all of their interactions and longing stares and the male-male tug-of-war for possession of a woman with even less agency than A Strong Female Protagonist could be entirely platonic, and maybe in a world where they weren’t always coded as romantic I wouldn’t get this fucking angry about people telling Pacific Rim is (a) great (b) aromantic.)