Aromanticism in Fiction pt 2 – Q&A

In Aromanticism in Fiction pt 1 I covered some of the whys of arospec characters. Pt 2 attempts to cover some of the hows. It’s still not quite a How Do I Write Aromantic Spectrum Characters guide (I recommend reading the experiences of arospec people and talking to them for more help on that front) but it should help point you in the right direction!

Q. Should I use the labels aromantic/asexual/grey-/demi- in my fiction? How do I make the orientations clear without using labels?
Q. Wait… aro… allosexuals??
Q. Grey-romantics? Wtfromantics?? Aroflux?? ?????
Q. Aro(spec) characters in romantic relationships?
Q. Okay cool so I can just write about grey-romantics falling in love or being in a romantic relationship to keep a partner happy to have a normal story right?
Q. What aro tropes should I be careful around?
Q. So… can my robot/magical construct/non-human/inhuman sociopath/eccentric genius/immortal stuck in a pubescent body/other thing where it’d be weird or creepy for it to be in a romantic relationship/alien be aromantic or will you get mad at me?
Q. Can there be a reason for being arospec?
Q. How do I write a queerplatonic relationship?
Q. What are the alternatives to a queerplatonic relationship?
Q. I wrote a story that doesn’t have any romance in it, does that count?

 

Q. Should I use the labels aromantic/asexual/grey-/demi- in my fiction? How do I make the orientations clear without using labels?

 
A. YES.
If your fiction is set in the modern day or a future where those terms would exist: YES, USE ARO/ACE LABELS.
If your fiction is set in a world where there are words for being gay or trans*: YES, USE ARO/ACE LABELS.
If your fiction is set in a world where there aren’t words for anything like that because it’s a queer-normative world: GOOD JOB! BUT CONSIDER USING ARO/ACE LABELS OR CREATING ARO/ACE LABELS?
You know how you can just write “his binder” or “her wives” or “eir wheelchair” and this can very succinctly describe parts of a character’s orientations and identities? But if a character is, say, panromantic or genderflux then you’re going to need to go the extra step in describing that, because maybe this character has two wives but you want the reader to know she’s also interested in other genders. And you don’t have to use a label in the text, sometimes it’s not difficult to mention an ex-partner of a different gender, or flashback to when they’ve used different pronouns, or have it naturally come up in conversation. (And, yeah, sometimes it is a bit difficult, and you want to make sure the reader understands that this character wasn’t simply going through a heteromantic phase or a she/her phase.)

There aren’t any good shortcuts for asexual and/or aromantic, and even less for other orientations on the ace/aro spectra. This is especially so because we’re in such a sex-normative and romance-normative society. So how do you express that what is for most people a liminal stage (not dating/not having sex/not finding people attractive/not falling in love/not wanting sex/being really invested in platonic relationships) is for this character their final form?

Many ways of indicating ace/aro-ness can be misunderstood or explained away…
Ze is single …for now.
He isn’t into men or women …until he finds the right person.
She’s usually never attracted to anyone but she is to this one person …and now she’s normal forever.
Ze is perfectly happy not having sex with hir partner …because there’s something wrong that can be fixed.
She just wants to be friends with him …because she’s a lesbian.
He and his flatmate have promised to always live together …and one day they’ll realise they’re in love with one another.
Ze’s never been in love and everyone agrees ze’ll never hook up with anyone …and ze will probably become a villain or a Don’t Fuck Up Your Life And Be Miserable Like Hir Just Let Love Into Your Life example.

But if there’s a label on the page, there’s no doubts! (Unless, of course, the label is misused…) An aro/ace reader doesn’t have to hope or headcanon with the dread that this probably isn’t a real aro/ace character, I’ll probably get to the end and they’ll have shacked up with someone. Bam, there it is: aromantic. Bam, it’s on the fucking page and you can’t deny it: grey-romantic. Bam, this is the first time you’ve ever seen your orientation represented and named in a work of fiction: aroflux.

And it just might be the first time someone sees a character canonically described with an ace/aro label in the text. Hell, it might be the first time someone’s ever seen that label. There it is, a character who feels like them, and there’s even a word for it? A word that means it’s legitimate to not feel attraction like everyone else, a word that means I’m okay.

Think about that. Our representation is so thin on the ground that your story, your character, your words has a good chance of being someone’s introduction to the asexuality and aromanticism spectra. And if there’s a label used in the text, well, Google’s never far away, and then all of a sudden there’s communities of people just like them and validation and belonging.
But, like, no stress or anything.

(Keep in mind, though, that if you do use a label but just write the character like any alloromantic that… is not how it works.)

Now, having said all this, I tend towards not using labels in my sff fiction. This is a conscious choice I make, and I know that because of this I either have to work harder in my writing or accept that most people won’t notice. And if you don’t use labels, you’ll have to work harder too.

It’s not just that standard romantic+sexual relationships are normal. It’s that any alternative is unthinkable to many people, and that it takes conscious effort to think of a potential relationship being anything different. You know how being straight is the weighted default, and you have to say “this character is gay” before you can tilt the scales to level, nevermind actually getting them to tip to “SERIOUSLY THO, GAY”? Well, being allosexual and alloromantic is such a weighted default that it’s like that side of the scales has an elephant herd in it, and you’re going to have to do some solid fucking work to get those scales anywhere near “well maybe not allo”.

So you add a line saying a character doesn’t do romance, or they need several years of emotional intimacy before sexual attraction develops, or they value their friendships more than any other relationship, but those misunderstandings from above happen, subconsciously, and that character’s now allo allo to many readers, and many aro/ace readers will be tentatively hopeful but we’ve had our hearts broken before and we know about the weighting of allo allo and how utterly unlikely it is that a character’s going to actually, deliberately, be written on our spectra.

To avoid ambiguity, you need either a solid scene where it’s laid out—it’s not “nope for now”, it’s “nope for always”; it’s not “I need fixing”, it’s “I need you to get out of my face”; it’s not “this romance is indicative of my entire life”, it’s “these romantic feelings are statistically very unlikely in my life”—or you need a good solid buttressing of the character’s orientation throughout the story. Enough comments and references that when you put them all together this character’s aceness and/or aroness is undeniable.

(Of course, it is important to show characters who can say “no” to another, who can go “only sex, no romo” or “I really fucking love my friends”, even if it might fall short of aro/ace representation, so perhaps it’s a win/win even if it’s too ambiguous?)

I’m going to quote a little bit from Asexuality and the Relationship Escalator but I suggest you read the full post:

At its core, the relationship escalator refers to the set of societal expectations around relationships and how they should be ‘properly’ conducted. It’s the default view of how relationships ‘should’ work, from how they develop to what they involve. It’s what we grow up thinking is ‘normal’ and ‘expected’ in a relationship.
[…]
So what does the relationship escalator look like? The basic picture is that all significant relationships progress through a set of distinct steps or stages, until they get to the aforementioned ‘top’ of the escalator. If you don’t make it all the way up, you have to start again at the bottom, with another partner. You can’t move backwards, and if you get off halfway, it’s considered either a failure, or not the ‘right’ relationship for you.

The escalator works like this: you start on the ground floor, single. You meet someone, you flirt, you go out on a date, and you begin going up on the escalator. As you get higher on the escalator you take the relationship you fall in love, you have sex, you refer to each as partners, you start taking the relationship more seriously, becoming established together, moving in, get married, have kids. Congratulations, you’ve reached the top of the escalator and you’re on the top floor.

But what happens if you’re arospec and some of these features are absent from your most significant relationship(s)?

The ideal of the relationship escalator does not work for aromantic aces on multiple levels. Like alloromantic aces, aromantic aces are excluded from escalator relationships first because they do often do not incorporate sexuality in most stages of the relationship. In addition, aromantic aces are also excluded from the escalator model because almost every stage of the escalator is based on romantic attraction and interest in another person. Romantic interest/feelings are inherent and inseparable to the escalator model: without romance, the escalator simply does not work. The escalator also assumes that any romantic feelings will always progress in a linear fashion, so it also doesn’t work for a lot of aromantic-spectrum people whose feelings aren’t always that linear or clearly defined.
As such, the escalator simply does not acknowledge that a relationship that is non-romantic could possibly be significant or valuable. Again, the escalator assumes that emotional connection, romantic interest and sexual attraction are all part of the same parcel, and that any relationship which only incorporates one or two cannot be a ‘proper’ partnered relationship. Even aromantic aces in exclusive, committed relationships are still considered to be lacking essential elements that make a relationship serious, significant and valued. In the escalator model, non-romantic relationships usually only take the form of familial relationships and friendships, both of which are inherently different to partnered, capital-R relationships.

So, your arospec character’s not going to reach the top of that escalator, not ever. They are perfectly happy and doing well hanging out in the middle of the escalator, or at the bottom, or on the ground floor, or connecting a flying fox between three different escalators. But people will expect them to end up at the top of the escalator. That’s what escalators do! They won’t see your character as stationary, as fulfilled and at the end/peak of their relationship; they’ll see your character as being in the process of getting to the top.

How do you make them see it like it really is? Break that escalator right on the page.

• This is a queerplatonic relationship, this escalator will NEVER take you up to the romosexnormativity floor. It takes you to a special room between the bottom and top floors and we are going to have a fucking cake party in here forever.
• This is an allosexual non-romantic relationship, this escalator was deliberately broken to stop moving because halfway up is where the best wifi reception is so we just sit there and netflix and chill and never even glance towards the top because there is no netflix there.
• This is an aroflux-greyaro-wtfromo poly relationship and this escalator is a ROLLER COASTER so strap yourself the fuck in and let’s go on this beautiful up and down and sideways ride.
• This is an ex-romantic now-committed platonic relationship and yeah we did ride the escalator all the way up to the top but we didn’t enjoy it up there so WE HUNG A WATER SLIDE OFF THE SIDE OF THE ESCALATOR and it was hella fun going back down to the ground floor and it is SO much nicer here we’re gonna stay here forever.
• This is a non-romantic found family and their giant robot they fight monsters with it doesn’t even look anything LIKE an escalator have you ever seen an escalator that PUNCHES MONSTERS look do we have to describe this robot to you again.
• This is an aromantic’s ground floor and escalators do not even exist here.

Break the escalator. On the page. Break it so everyone sees it’s broken. Break it and break it good so that people will understand this character’s escalator is absolutely different to most escalators. Unless they see that the escalator is broken, people will see a character hanging out at the bottom of the escalator and think “ah, they have not yet begun to ascend the escalator” and they will see a character who’s partway up the escalator and think “ah, they are approaching the top” and they will see a character who’s jumping off the side of an escalator and think “ah, they need someone to hold their hand the next time they go up the escalator”.

(I suppose using a label is like putting up ESCALATOR NOT IN USE signs?)

So, if you don’t use a label, whether it’s a current real world label or a really obvious analogue for your world, you’ve got to really work at it, okay? Is there much point in creating an aro/ace-spectrum character if they’re ambiguously so, if aro/ace readers are going to wonder if they’re just being hopeful, if non-aro/ace readers aren’t going to notice? (Of course, maybe you want it ambiguous, or discreet. But realise this and don’t get upset if people are hesitant about calling this character aro/ace or don’t notice.)

 

Q. Wait… aro… allosexuals??

 
A. THEY DO EXIST. PLEASE CONSIDER WRITING ABOUT THEM. It’s not James Bond and ice queens. Sure, they can have casual sex, but others have dedicated sexual partners and strong platonic and/or queerplatonic relationships (and a reminder: platonic and queerplatonic relationships can involve sex)!

Allosexual aromantic characters will require extra care! Alloromantic asexuals and aromantic asexuals are much more well-known than allosexual aromantics, and more understandable. Sex without romance is seen as much more immature, more commitment-phobic, more slutty and negative and careless and aggressive, than romance without sex. You’ll need to heed issues like misogyny, homophobia and transphobia as well, for some allo aros. You’ll need to combat the fact that romantic relationships are More Important and More Mature and More Socially Acceptable. You’ll need to address issues like sexual-but-not-romantic relationships being expected to lack emotional intimacy. All those fun things.

Allosexual aros can have casual sex, they can have committed sexual partners, they can have queerplatonic partners or friends who are sexual partners, they can be kinky, they can be celibate, they can have incredibly strong friendships and non-romantic relationships which they treat as higher/equal/lower importance to their sexual relationships.

allosexual aromantic does not mean “has sex without emotional attachment”

there are some alloromantic people who do have sex without emotional attachment and thats fine whether theyre doing it for a job or for their own pleasure or for whatever reason
but there is more than one way to be aromantic

Stigma against aromantic allosexual people

Meanwhile, the development of romantic feelings is given far more sympathy and depth by authors than the development of sexual but non-romantic feelings. The ideal relationship is treated as romantic and sexual, while non-romantic sexual relationships are treated as inferior and unfulfilling.
The English language itself reflects the difference in our culture’s attitudes. Compare the connotations of the words “love” and “lust.”

The Thinking Asexual’s aro-allo tag

Meanwhile, aromantic sexual people can have all the sex in the universe, they can be highly promiscuous, they can have a dating history, they can view sex as an absolute need–but they are exponentially more likely to prioritize and value friendship over just about any other social experience. In fact, every aromantic sexual person I’ve found online so far has told me that friendship is more important to them than sex.

Anagnori’s aro-allo tag

Basically, the only people for whom “sex without love” is really accepted are able-bodied, neurotypical, cis white heterosexual heteroromantic men. Because those are the only people for whom sexuality is treated as normal and acceptable in the first place.

An interview about allosexual aromantics

Siggy: Have you encountered other kinds of vitriol or stereotypes?
Adrien C.: The most popular one seems to be comparing us (aromantic allosexuals) to robots and/or demons with no regard for human emotions. It’s gross and dehumanizing.

 

Q. Grey-romantics? Wtfromantics?? Aroflux?? ?????

 
A. THEY ALSO EXIST. PLEASE CONSIDER WRITING ABOUT THEM. Grey-romantic (also, sigh, gray-romantic if you want to google) is an umbrella term for everyone on the aromantic spectrum who is not purely aromantic. Many grey-ros consider their arospec-ness important and that they’re “sometimes romantic” rather than “sometimes aromantic” (of course, not all of them do). They might only experience romantic attraction a few times in their life, they might need years of emotional attachment to develop romantic attraction, they might fluctuate between aromanticism and romanticism, between romance repulsion and romance indifference or wanting romance, they might occasionally feel romantic attraction but not care about being in a romantic relationship.

They’re much rarer to find in fiction than nope-never aromantics, and they need representation too! Of course, it can be very easy to fall into “WELP, they found THE RIGHT ONE and they’re IN LOVE and they’re NOW NORMAL” and thus completely erase aromanticism as being a thing that exists. (Don’t do this.)

Also be careful you don’t confuse sexual orientation with romantic! A character could be grey-sexual as well as grey-romantic, but they could be asexual or allosexual!

 

Q. Aro(spec) characters in romantic relationships?

 
If you think the idea of aromantics who’re in romantic relationships is an oxymoron then remember that aromanticism is a spectrum, that people are complex, and that attraction doesn’t dictate behaviour. (If it’s confusing to you, think about the parallels with asexuals who have sexual relationships.) Aros can be aromantic, grey-romantic, demiromantic, aroflux, quoiromantic, etc. Aros can be romance-repulsed, romance-averse, romance-indifferent, romance-favourable, etc. Aros will have different ideas about what’s platonic, what’s queerplatonic, what’s romantic. Aros can enjoy or desire romantic activities (like a “romantic libido”). Just because an aro might not be in love with a partner doesn’t mean they don’t love their partner (they might not love their partner, though).

Now, there’s a few broad categories of aros to talk about here. First, those on the spectrum who can and do develop romantic attraction and who might be in a romantic relationship. Falling in love does not negate a grey- or demiromantic’s orientation, they do not suddenly become allo, and it’s very important to not erase their aroness when writing about them and also very important to not erase non-spectrum aromantics when you write about arospecs. (There is no universal aro experience, you cannot write one, you shouldn’t act as though there is one.) Just as there’s variation in allo romantic relationships, there’ll be variation in arospec romantic relationships.

Secondly, there’s relationships which blur the lines between romantic and platonic. Queerplatonic relationships exist on a spectrum too and, while they’re not romantic relationships, some are more romantic than platonic, with committed behaviour and romantic actions (which one or more partners may view as romantic or not romantic; everyone’s different). Perhaps one partner is alloromantic, or everyone involved are romance- and touch-favourable aros. There are soft romo relationships, usually between aromantics and alloromantics, which can be romantic relationships or not, with varying amounts of romantic behaviour in them according to what the partners are comfortable with. There are also quoiromantics, whose feelings aren’t clearly defined between platonic/romantic or who want to be in queerplatonic relationships, who might be involved in romantic-of-varying-degrees relationships.

Thirdly, naturally there’s aros who are in romantic relationships before they learn about aromanticism. It might be an unhappy romantic relationship, the aro not understanding why they’re unhappy, and it’s possible they’ll break up. It might be a happy romantic relationship, though, possibly with lots of romantic behaviour even though the attraction is missing, with lots of love and intimacy even though it’s not romantic-based, and possibly after the aro comes out the relationship will continue much the same as it was, committed and loving, hopefully after the aro and their partner have discussed this (some allo partners need to be romantically desired, others do not). Maybe there’ll be a bit of what amatonormative society would consider a “downgrade”, maybe there won’t be.

Fourthly, there are aromantics who know they’re aro and who seek and get into romantic relationships without romantic feelings. Maybe they enjoy romantic behaviours, maybe they’re pretending to be allo, maybe they click non-romantically (sexually, platonically, queerplatonically, etc) with someone who’s interested in them romantically and decide to give it a shot, maybe they want to start a family… The level and intensity of romantic behaviour will vary between partners, just like in any relationship there’s compromise and trying things and discovering what you do and don’t like and changing your mind.

Here’s some quick examples (it’s more likely that the aros following will be romance-indifferent or –favourable):
• Grey-romantics, demiromantics, arofluxers who are in love and that love has led to a romantic relationship.
• Demiromantics who aren’t (yet) romantically attracted to their partner. Maybe they’re pretty sure they will become attracted, maybe they’re giving it a try on the other person’s behalf.
• Quoiromantics/wtfromantics with alloromantic or arospec partners.
• Aros who aren’t sure where they are on the spectrum, who aren’t sure whether they’ve got a crush or a squish, and get into a romantic relationship to see how it goes.
• Aromantics who pretend to be romantic and get into a romantic relationship for whatever reason. Maybe they’re closeted, they want stability, they’re sexually attracted to their partner, they’re in denial, they don’t want to be alone, they’re winning a bet, they’re playing a long con, they think it’s their best option for having children…
• Aromantics who realise they’re aro during their romantic relationship but don’t break up for whatever reason. Maybe they’re content with their relationship, they’re not content but they’ll pretend for the reasons above, they’re not sure what to do, their relationship heads towards the queerplatonic but is still quite romantic, they’re scared to leave their partner…
• Aros who aren’t in love with their partner, but they love their partner and are happy in a romantic relationship. Maybe they realised they were aro during a romantic relationship and decided they liked what they had and continued with it, they’re in a romantic-leaning queerplatonic relationship (with an alloromantic or arospec partner)…
• Aromantics who are trying out a romantic, or soft romo, relationship. Maybe their queerplatonic partner’s (or a sexual partner, dedicated platonic life-partner, friend, etc) fallen in love with them and has asked to try being more romantic…
• Aros who want a romantic relationship because they love everything about romance, despite not being romantically attracted to their partner.
•Aros who don’t know they’re aromantic. Maybe they’re content in a romantic relationship, they think they’re content but their romantic partner is unhappy, they’re unhappy in their happy romantic relationship and they don’t really understand why…
• Aros who are mind-controlled or under some attraction spell to act alloromantic. (N.B. this is a horrific situation for a horror novel, if you must use this idea do not treat it as anything other than terrifying (but don’t use this idea).)

If you decide to write an arospec character in a relationship, make sure to read up on experiences from people who share that character’s orientation. Remember that arospecs who fall in love do not become alloromantic and have not been “cured” of their aromanticism, that like allos they will have varying levels of comfort with romantic behaviour. Remember not to erase aros who don’t fall in love or aros who do fall in love but don’t form romantic relationships. If their partner is alloromantic, don’t make it automatic that the aro partner will have to make most of the compromises about romantic behaviour. Don’t assume that every aro/allo romantic relationship will be unhappy. Don’t assume that every aro romantic relationship will be aro/allo. Don’t write queerplatonic relationships as romantic relationships.

Don’t be That Allo and only write arospec characters if they’re in romantic relationships because you think stories are only interesting and that characters are only humanised when there’s romance.

Also keep in mind that a relationship might look romantic to others but not be, and vice versa.

Where exactly is the line between arospec and where should we draw it?

There isn’t a line yet, and honestly we could sit around talking about where it should be for years and still not have a perfect spot to draw it. While I’d be happy to give you a definition of what separates alloromanticism from the aromantic spectrum, there just isn’t one.

Updating the Map: Romantic Attraction and Friendship vs. Romance

Neither of us had intended to start anything even vaguely romantic, but the activities we did and the intense kind of immediate connection that we had was coded as romantic in our culture, and our friends made sure to remind us of that at every opportunity.

Quoiromantic Ramblings

I’d first and foremost want it to be strong platonic friendship that later turn into partnerships that is still mostly platonic but also does romantic/sexual things every once in a while but not too often.

Can anyone explain what quoiromantic is?

You don’t have to experience romantic attraction to be in a romantic relationship. Everyone is free to define what a romantic relationship is for them. With me and my girlfriend, even if our orientations aren’t the same what we look for in a relationship is 100% compatible and would be the same no matter the label.

Me and quoiromantic

I do have a boyfriend and he occupies a specific, individual niche in my life that all my other friends don’t but it doesn’t feel particularly useful to describe it as romantic unless I’m talking to other people. It is romantic, but that isn’t the most important thing about the relationship. Primarily, I see him as a committed life partner with whom I do specific, romantically-coded things.

Can anyone explain to me in detail about demiromanticism?

The weirdest part about having crushes, for me, is that I actively want to touch the other person. I want to hug them. I want to hold their hand. I want to kiss them, although usually I want to kiss on the cheek or neck rather than the mouth. I still won’t initiate (mostly because I’m really unsure how they’ll take it and also, being touch-averse myself, I am big into consent), but the urge is definitely there. (I will generally only give into this urge once I start dating the person, at which time I turn into a giant cuddle bug. That’s also the point at which I actually want to kiss the other person on the mouth.)

I found the right person and I’m still aromantic

I’ve toyed with the idea of calling it queerplatonic, but I don’t feel comfortable saying that it’s definitively non-romantic in nature, since I don’t know what that means. I’d rather leave that label to those who are more certain. Instead I call it close. A close relationship. My closest relationship. There’s no confusion in that. Sometimes, though, it’s easiest to let people think that we’re romantic. That word gives a relationship a certain social status; people treat it as something important, something almost sacred. And, most of the time, we just don’t feel like explaining ourselves to anyone. Let them think what they will. I’m sure they’ll get the basic idea.

I don’t understand dating, so I’m getting married

But romantic relationships aren’t all honeymoon. They settle down into a more companionate sort of love after a few years, and that thing is where I am totally comfortable. I might not know where the storm of passionate infatuation feels like, but I can do that place where you get someone well enough to accurately tell if they’re judging your taste in cheesy sleeved blankets when they’re standing silently behind you. I can do the place where you finish each other’s sentences and effortlessly bicker along well-worn arguments and keep a mental list of what kinds of food your partner likes, hates, and can’t consume without allergic reactions. I can do all of that, easy. So what’s different between my easygoing, companionate two year old relationships and a romantic partnership that has mellowed and matured into an easygoing, companionate relationship?

Things I Wish I’d Known About Being an Aromantic Ace in a Relationship

Sometimes you won’t know how to explain why you feel the way you do, or why you like or dislike something. You’ll feel uncertain and confused, and frustrated by your own uncertainty and confusion. But you don’t always have to be able to explain what you’re feeling. Yes, sometimes it can be really helpful for your partner if you can explain where you’re coming from and what exactly you’re feeling. But sometimes you have nothing more to explain than that you have to follow your gut, and you end up just confusing yourself and your partner even more. You might never figure out the best way of handling this sort of thing.

I’ve got a lot of love to give and it’s not romantic

I’m aromantic because I don’t experience romantic attraction. It is not about how other people perceive my relationships, because the definition of romance seems to monopolize the intersection of love and commitment. It is about what I desire, what I crave. Which is companionship, a physical closeness, trusting that you’ll be there for me. I already hear someone calling out “that’s romantic!” WHY? Why is everything that’s amazing about being with other people automatically romantic?

The QPR/Soft Romo Guide for Defining the Relationship

While communication is important in any relationship, amatonormative relationships have a script to follow, which helps greatly. (A DTR talk may be as simple as, “so are we doing this?” or “would it be okay if I called you my boyfriend?”) Those who desire QPRs or soft-romo relationships do not have this tool, and often at least one of the people involved do not have the language to even begin defining what it is their relationship is, which can make defining the relationship a daunting task.

is soft-romo a relationship type or a relationship descriptor?

So if you think it’s best for you to try a relationship that is soft romo, go for it! You can call it a soft-romo relationship, or a romantic relationship, or anything you want, and you can still be soft romo. It works how you need it to!

Guest Post: Interview with C on Aromanticism and Relationships

I didn’t really realize I am aromantic until rather recently (perhaps, 6 months?), so it’s something I’m still coming to terms with. My current primary relationship doesn’t seem like it has been affected much. Usually couples tend to grow less romantic over time, so most of our relationship has mostly naturally progressed in that fashion and there is a lot less reason to force the rekindling.

Taking a Step Back: why not moving forwards doesn’t mean a relationship is failing

To anyone on the outside, assuming that we’re just another non-ace couple, our relationship might look a bit like it’s sliding all over the place on the normative relationship scale. We’ve been at points ‘further along’ the scale than we are now. We recently consciously made the decision to scale back some aspects of our relationship. In the eyes of wider society, that might seem like the beginning of the end. Only it’s not.

untitled

Until I found myself feeling romantic attraction for my best friend. After recovering from a drawn out, miserable panic attack over the revelation, we talked it out and agreed to give dating a go. I figured I was actually demiromantic. I was definitely feeling romantic attraction – all those inexplicable urges to do romantic things, like cuddle and go out together and hold hands and make her laugh. Acting on it was significantly harder as I discovered that I’m also very romance-repulsed. No matter how much the attraction said “yes, do the thing!” actually doing the thing proved to be difficult, if not impossible. Sometimes it was just a matter of feeling incredibly awkward and a little bit off-put. Other times, it would induce anxiety and cause me to withdraw completely.

Greyromanticism 301

– Romantic attraction as pointless. Experiencing motivation to have romantic relationships independently of romantic attraction or not at all. Being romantically attracted to people but not wanting to do anything with that feeling. Romantic attraction having little to no bearing on the relationships you form. Rather than saying, “I don’t know if I’m experiencing romantic attraction or not,” asking, “Does it matter if I’m experiencing romantic attraction or not?”

Aromantic With A Desire To Marry? 😮

So what I desire: compatibility and friendship. And where could those factors combine? Marriage.

! I was just wondering how aromantic people can be involved in a relationship, or even get married and have kids?

Aromantic people may not experience romantic attraction, but they can still enjoy or not mind expressing their nonromantic attraction to someone through romantic behaviors and activities. Their feelings for their partner are not romantic, but are expressed like romantic attraction is expressed. Or maybe the partner is romantically attracted to the aro person, and the aro person is queerplatonically attracted to the alloro person, so they go ahead and call it a romantic relationship because they enjoy expressing their attraction to each other in romantic-coded gestures.

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I have a partner who is also aromantic, and it’s basically the ideal setup for both of us: we care a lot about each other and understand each other’s feelings and needs (or more accurately, lack thereof) in the “romance” department in a way that I think would be really difficult for non-aromantics to do, vs just ‘accepting’ that that’s not something the other is going to be able to genuinely reciprocate.

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Their relationship is happy, if we take happy to mean comfortable enough. But she is not as happy as she would be if she’d married a man able to reciprocate her romantic feelings. Not even remotely close. Her life is happy, but unfulfilled. But they have both gotten what they wanted out of life.

 

Q. Okay cool so I can just write about grey-romantics falling in love or being in a romantic relationship to keep a partner happy to have a normal story right?

 
There was an interesting thing in fanfic fandom (which I haven’t experienced firsthand because I don’t do fanfic) where fanfic writers discovered asexuality and a lot of them wrote asexual characters who had sex and liked having sex and liked making their partner sexually happy. Which, yeah, you know, some asexual people do like sex, some asexual people are grey-sexual, some asexual people are sex-indifferent and like making their partners happy. But, well, you get allosexual people writing asexual characters, and it just ends up a way of making your sexy-romance story a bit different to all the others, and you get The One Ace Narrative where sex-normativity prevails.

Almost all of the arospec characters (whether canon or headcanon) I’ve seen in fiction have been aromantic rather than further along the spectrum. So yeah, we do need more grey-romantics in fiction. But we also don’t need to erase aromantics by making every arospec character fall in love and live happily ever after in a romantic relationship.

 

Q. What aro tropes should I be careful around?

 
A. We are not intrinsically inhuman or non-human or supra-human. We are not all robots, aliens, serial killers, weird immortals, eccentric detectives, mad scientists, saints. We are not all incapable of love, friendless, emotionless. We are not all bitter, cruel loners full of regret, anguish and bile. We are not all broken. We are not all abused. We are not all agender, asexual.
(Some are, though, and they exist and they matter and they must be included. We are not all not those things.)
Be careful when dealing with populations who have been de-romanticised (or de-sexualised, or hyper-sexualised) such as neurodivergent, disabled, non-whites, headscarf wearers.

Asexual POC Resources(some are about arospec too)

this page is my personal attempt at compiling links to various content on/by/for asexual people of color (APOC) in the hopes of it not only being a resource for myself but for others as well.

Soooo this post and all the white aces commenting on it are wrong and also racist and here’s why

What does it mean to be asexual for a black women who is constantly hypersexualized, and how alienating is it to have her asexuality negated (sometimes even by the ace community) because she is constantly seen as “sexual”? How does it affect a brown/black woman who dons a headscarf and are coded desexualized and coded “asexual” regardless of how they feel about it, where conversations about sex are seen as out-of-the-norm, while simultaneously all brown/black women (even those who wear a headscarf) are coded a “freak in bed” (yay for stereotypes, amirite) and the dissuasion of talk of sex at—and I mean at, like at an object— them is written off as “modesty” instead of both a challenge of racialized sexism and a negation of their asexuality?

Asexual, aromantic, Autistic

And at the same time, the asexual community disavows disability. Asexuality is often seen as evidence of a disorder, and in countering this, many asexual people emphasise the fact that there is nothing wrong with them. Asexual people who deny a link between autism and asexuality often pathologise autism at the same time.

What advice would you give a lifelong wheelchair-user who’s recently realized she’s ace, but feels like admitting it publicly would be a betrayal of her fellow disabled people and harm the “disability≠no sex” message they’re preaching?

And it’s not an accident that most of the people who have been selected repeatedly for asexual media–like me–mysteriously don’t fail this checklist, and continue to perpetuate a “sanitized” version of asexuality because of how we’re portrayed.

do you have any affirmations for mentally ill aro folks?

If you can’t tell if you’re “born” aro or if your lack of romantic attraction is caused by your mental illness, don’t stress. If you don’t experience romantic attraction, you can identify as aro regardless of whether it was caused by your mental illness or not.

 

Q. So… can my robot/magical construct/non-human/inhuman sociopath/eccentric genius/immortal stuck in a pubescent body/other thing where it’d be weird or creepy for it to be in a romantic relationship/alien be aromantic or will you get mad at me?

 
There’s also human aros in the story, right? Like, you’re not presenting this as a You Can’t Be Human If You’re Aro/You Can’t Be Aro If You’re Human thing, right?
Right?

 

Q. Can there be a reason for being arospec?

 
There are people on the aromantic spectrum because of sex aversion, fear, abuse or illness or medication or other reasons. They are just as legitimately arospec as anyone who was born that way. In a perfect world they might not be arospec, but maybe they might still be; we can’t know.

If, however, you mean a reason along the lines of “I gave up my alloromanticism for my god” or “my mind was put into a robot” or “I was cursed” then let me assure you that I have no physical ability to stop you writing awful things but have you considered not doing so.

 

Q. How do I write a queerplatonic relationship?

 
A. Every queerplatonic relationship (QPR) is different, like how every romantic relationship or platonic relationship or sexual relationship or familial relationship is different in some way. People in a QPR find their own individual ways to be partners. Someone with multiple QPRs will likely have different QPRs.

The difference between “romantic” and “platonic” is a spectrum, and for every person and every relationship it’s a unique spectrum. Some people think kissing is romantic; others think it’s platonic. Some people think holding hands is romantic; others think it’s platonic. Same for saying, “I love you”, buying gifts, buying romantic-coded gifts like flowers or V-Day cards, watching films together, having sex, flirting, non-sexually sharing a bed, emailing/SMSing frequently, living together, raising children together, going on holidays together, dropping everything to help the other, regularly driving/flying long distances to see the other, financially supporting the other, supporting the other while they’re ill, attending the other’s family events, getting legally married, etc, etc, etc.

Just like there’s no set “you must do X number of these things to be officially in a romantic relationship”, there’s no set number of romantic or platonic actions a QPR must display (especially considering that one person’s romantic action is another’s platonic action). Instead of “what makes a queerplatonic relationship?” you might as well ask “what makes a romantic relationship?” (which is what I have to do whenever I write a romantic relationship!) but, really, the questions you should be asking yourself are more along the lines of “what makes this relationship queerplatonic?” and “how do these queerplatonic partners (QPPs) navigate their relationship?” because you’re not going to get a cookie-cutter list of things to include or exclude.

Usually a QPR is more important and more romantic than platonic relationships, and less important and less romantic than romantic relationships, but this isn’t true in every case. And because we’re in the nebulous spectrum between platonic and romantic, you’ve got to look at things like what distinctions does this character make between platonic/romantic/queerplatonic/other. This could be things like this character will plan to live together with their QPP, but not with friends; this character will flirt with their friends, but not with their QPP; this character will have sex with their romantic partner, but not with their QPP; this character will go on magical adventures across time and space with their QPP, but not with their romantic partner or friends. Also there might be differences between one person’s QPRs depending on personal preferences, just like with any other type of relationship, and someone’s preferences might change as they develop or as the relationship develops. There is also consideration of the other partner’s preferences, just like with any other type of relationship, and sometimes a willingness to compromise to whatever degree or sometimes a dealbreaker that means the relationship can only continue in a damaging fashion.

Some QPRs go unnamed, some evolve naturally from platonic relationships, some involve “do you want to be my partner (no romo)?” They are the in-between relationship. You have to think about how they’re not a romantic relationship, even if onlookers might assume it’s one.

And, of course, some QPRs aren’t between platonic and romantic, they exist completely outside of that binary/spectrum.

(Be reeeeeally careful not to treat a non-het QPR as a queerbaiting exercise. Queerbaiting, while unfortunately one of my best sources for QPR inspiration, is bad. There must be space for both queer romantic and sexual relationships and queerplatonic relationships.)

The Five Factor Model of Relationships

The Five Factor Model relies on five factors (thus the name) to categorize relationships: commitment, intimacy, time, exclusivity, and priority.

Squishes, Limerence and Queerplatonic Self-Doubt

I don’t know what it’s like to feel romantically or sexually attracted to someone, but I do know how to recognize limerence, and I know I’ve never felt it. Not in a romantic, sexual, or platonic way. It was the big fat clue that made me suspect I was aromantic. […] It’s very difficult for me to decide whether I want a queerplatonic relationship or not, because I can’t tell where my feelings end and where the biases society taught me begin. I’ve got some real problems with internalized amatonormativity, and I can’t tell if my interest in queerplatonic relationships is just the displacement of my old desire for a romantic relationship – that is, if I’ve subconsciously transferred the idea of “needing a relationship” to be happy from a romantic to a queerplatonic form.

Awkward Conversations by Proxy: The Story of a Queerplatonic Triad

I do think that for us, taking the pressure off about what it means to be in a queerplatonic relationship is really helpful. That’s one of the nicer things about having a weird fuzzy grey-areas relationship; you’re more or less understood to be making it up as you go along.

Queerplatonic Friendships That Aren’t Partnerships

In conclusion, queerplatonic friendships do not have to be partnerships, and friendship doesn’t need to be called “queerplatonic” or function as a primary partnership to involve a high level of commitment, emotion, love, touch, time, and intimacy. QP friendships that are not partnerships are every bit as important and serious as the ones that are. It’s totally cool if you’re an aro who wants or has qp friendships but who doesn’t want a partner.

QP relationships are not “romance light”… and that discourse de-radicalises them

But just because people created a meta-category (i.e., of QP relationships ) to name important relationships… doesn’t meant that the meta-category *only* contains important relationships. There can be QP relationships of varying degree of significance… just like there can be friendships or romantic relationships or for that matter community solidarity relationships or professional relationships. It’s just that people rarely talk about them.

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I feel like a lot of the discussion about queerplatonic relationships, regardless of viewpoint, seems to assume they’re basically “romance lite”. I haven’t seen a lot of discussion recently about commitment, dependability, trust, and why even someone like me who has an extremely high tolerance for the solitary life (and has lived it for nearly 22 years) might want to have such a relationship to fill a particular space in their life.

The QPR/Soft Romo Guide for Defining the Relationship

Another type of relationship is a soft-romo relationship, which is somewhere in-between a QPR and a romantic relationship. These often occur when one partner is romantically attracted to the other and the other is not, or when one or both partners have fluctuating levels of attraction or tolerance for romantic activities, or boundaries that make a typical romantic relationship not realistic.

Asexuality and the Relationship Escalator

As such, the escalator simply does not acknowledge that a relationship that is non-romantic could possibly be significant or valuable. Again, the escalator assumes that emotional connection, romantic interest and sexual attraction are all part of the same parcel, and that any relationship which only incorporates one or two cannot be a ‘proper’ partnered relationship. Even aromantic aces in exclusive, committed relationships are still considered to be lacking essential elements that make a relationship serious, significant and valued. In the escalator model, non-romantic relationships usually only take the form of familial relationships and friendships, both of which are inherently different to partnered, capital-R relationships.

Notes from the intro of “Rotten Zucchinis 2” (amatonormativity as qp violence scaffolding)

And a big part of why I’ve to fight so hard for recognition is that people define my relationships as either impossible or as insignificant… because my relationships don’t look like what important relationships are supposed to look like. People refuse to acknowledge that my experiences are real, even if the don’t (or can’t) understand them.

Updating the Map: Romantic Attraction and Friendship vs. Romance

Because what we did in the first year of our relationship… didn’t work. And a large part of that was that both of us were questionably-romantic, and we were trying to follow normative romantic relationship scripts.

Non-Romantic Relationship Scripts

But there aren’t really any scripts for queerplatonic relationships and close non-romantic partnerships. When you love someone dearly, but not in a romantic or sexual way, there aren’t any social conventions to guide you. It can get really awkward and difficult when you want to express affection for someone but are afraid that they’ll take it the wrong way.

Scripts Are a Bug, Not a Feature

I’m uncomfortable with the entire society-mandated cultural complex surrounding romance. The whole reason I don’t identify as romantic, full stop, is that the process by which I attach to someone is slow and a bit complicated and a little different, not that I think attachment and affection really differ between established romantic relationships and mine. One of the thing I love about my relationships is that they’ve progressed in a manner that lets both me and my partners check in with our own comfort levels and modify things to suit us, without having to worry whether this is working according to the “rules.” There are no rules or pressures except what makes all of us happy, and that’s awesome!

I was asked recently about the difference between queerplatonic and friendship

In Dogma, Jay introduces himself and his ‘heterosexual life partner’ Silent Bob. Not the first lines out of Jay’s mouth, but close enough. They are powerful, important moving forces in each other’s lives. In some ways, they have priority over anyone else. What those ways are can change depending on the QPR. Some don’t ever live together, some of us do, some even have commitment ceremonies, some like things a lot more casual.

Why don’t we talk about non-normative relationships failing?

Yes, having an ace partner can remove sex from the equation of potential relationship stressors (for those of us who prefer nonsexual relationships), but there are still about a million other relationship stressors out there. Do you have compatible personalities? Do you have similar communication styles? Do you have shared interests? Will this relationship work out geographically? Are you actually attracted to each other? (Strangely enough, just knowing someone is ace isn’t enough for me to be interested in dating them!) Do you have compatible worldviews? Do you want the same things from this relationship? Do you have compatible life goals?

Romantic Relationships vs. Queerplatonic Relationships

And I think trying to strictly define a queerplatonic narrative defeats the whole purpose of it. The purpose of it is to forge your own definition, to say “none of these words fit, so I’m going to make my own”. Queerplatonic is the breaking down of boundaries, or at least, that’s been my experience. It’s uncharted territory that has no societal bounds, that has no one making a strange face at what you do or don’t do in your relationship (or at least, not from people who understand the concept). Queerplatonic means mixing and matching, saying “I want to do this platonic thing, and this romantic thing, but not this romantic thing”.

Queerplatonic relationships vs friendships vs romantic relationships

Queerplatonic friendships vary widely, in terms of behavior and level of commitment/life enmeshment. What defines them is typically the emotional content, the level of emotional connection and love. It’s hard to objectively describe or tell the difference between a qp friendship and a normative, best or close friendship, unless the queerplatonic friendship surpasses normative friendship in a) time spent together, b) physical affection/intimacy, c) level of commitment and/or exclusivity, d) practical involvement or partner status. Some QP friendships look very similar to normative best friendships, and some look very similar to normative romantic relationships. The point is, is that QP relationships are more than normative friendship but NOT romantic in nature. It’s an alternative, gray-area kind of relationship, whether emotionally and/or behaviorally.

Take Off Those Romance-Colored Glasses

The word and the concept of queerplatonic relationships was created by AROMANTIC people, to describe their own feelings and desires for nonromantic relationships that don’t fit into romantic society’s understanding, into romantic society’s relationship binary of “romantic partnerships” vs. “friendships.” That’s why I’m flabbergasted whenever I see someone ask whether wanting a queerplatonic partnership might mean they’re not aromantic. Jesus Christ! A desire for a NONROMANTIC partnership, called by a term that aro people invented, should not cause anyone to doubt their aromanticism! Romantic people are not the only ones who are allowed to want a partner! Why? Because partnerships are not exclusively romantic!

 

Q. What are the alternatives to a queerplatonic relationship?

 
Not every arospec person has or wants a QPR! And it’d be really weird if QPRs were presented as the ONLY type of relationship aros care about. We can have all the non-romantic relationships that alloromantics and grey-romantics can have! Friendships aka platonic relationships, committed platonic relationships, biological and adoptive and extended and intergenerational and distant familial relationships, teacher-student, boss-employee, patron-creator, criminal-detective, partners-in-crime, hero-nemesis, domme-sub, classmates, teammates, workmates, crewmates, roommates, inmates, acquaintances, enemies, frenemies, rivals, strangers… all of them.

Friendships are important, so important. So often friends are seen as an adolescent thing, as people you hang around while you’re waiting to fall in love. Friends are important to aromantics, and friends are important to alloromantics too! More friendships. Please. All kinds of friendships.

Non-romantic squishes can be a thing, too!

My personal favourite thing in media is found family and true companions with a group of characters with non-romantic lifelong bonds, who aren’t necessarily friends but will do anything for one another and I am super biased and basically want my life to be a shounen manga but I super duper recommend writing those sorts of relationships.

 

Q. I wrote a story that doesn’t have any romance in it, does that count?

 
A. No.
I’m sure it’ll make a lot of people really happy, a lot of people love stories that don’t involve romance (and don’t get me wrong, we definitely need more non-romance stories, stories that focus on families and friendships). But. It’s not aro.

I wrote a story where the narrator’s gender is never revealed or hinted at; I can’t say I wrote a genderqueer character.
I eat a chickpea burger; I can’t say I’m vegetarian.
I see someone drinking water in a pub; I can’t say they’re a teetotaler.
I read something that contains zero romance; I can’t say it’s aro. I can say, “I really enjoyed this” and I say say, “I think this character might be aro” and I can say, “I really hope this character is aro” and then I will say, “But they’re probably not because amatonormativity” and then I will feel sad.

Alloromanticism (heteromanticism) is the norm. Present a character who’s single and 99% of people will fill in “single at the moment“.

Even if you intend for a character to read as aro, if all you do is have there be no romance that is not aro representation.

One thought on “Aromanticism in Fiction pt 2 – Q&A

  1. Pingback: Tumblr Aro Asks meme, my answers (part 3 of 4) – From Fandom to Family: Sharing my many thoughts

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