In a shocking twist of events, Monday I was interviewed live on a BBC Outside Source about asexuality after a reporter found me through this tweet right here. The interviewer had a basic understanding of what the blanket term of asexuality was, but was baffled at the term demisexual—which got me thinking that it would be so nice to have a basic “guide” I could link to so I wouldn’t have to constantly explain asexuals and aromantics. We all know there’s hardly any representation in popular media to help us out. So, to celebrate Asexual Awareness Week, here’s a bit of a very simple primer:
What is the Asexual/Aromantic umbrella?
A majority of the world experiences romantic and sexual attraction to whomever they’re attracted to. Someone unfamiliar with aces (asexuals) and aros (aromantics) may have the default thought that someone who is “hererosexual” is someone simply attracted to the “opposite” sex. But technically, an allosexual (someone who is not aro or ace) “heterosexual” is both heteromantic and heterosexual. It can also be a little different—so-and-so may be panromantic but homosexual. What that means is that they’re emotionally/romantically attracted to all genders, but they’re only sexually attracted to the “same” gender. They may go their whole life not knowing that. It may not matter to them. Society tends to value sexual attraction above romantic attraction, so it might never be important to that theoretical individual.
Someone who is asexual or aromantic does not experience one or the other (though that’s not at all a firm rule, as you’ll see below).
However, just because they don’t experience one (or both), does not neccesarily mean they are:
- Incapable of enjoying intimacy, including kissing and sex.
- Opposed to significant relationships in their life.
- Without a libido.
- Touch averse.
- Identifying as ace/aro due to trauma.
- Experiencing emotions differently than allo identifying individuals.
- Identifying as ace/aro due to a hormone deficiency.
- And above all else, IT DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE FUNDAMENTALLY BROKEN.
Aside from the last bullet, an ace or aro person can be one of those things, and it’s perfectly okay! (Though please take care of your mental and physical health when you’re able! <3) There is no neat and tidy box for people identifying as ace/aros, same as for any other identity. Having these labels give us a way to communicate who we are, and, and find like-minded people so we can feel comfortable and not broken as many aces feel they are initially.
Okay, but what do the words mean?
Let’s start with the big two, shall we? Here are the most basic descriptions:
- Asexual: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction.
- Aromantic: Someone who does not experience romantic attraction.
Under those, individuals may be romantically or sexually attracted to any number of genders, same as someone who is allosexual, or they may be attracted to no one at all.
But that’s not all there is. Just because someone is asexual doesn’t mean that they never feel sexual attraction, or vice versa with aromantics. For example, the biggest umbrellas under those umbrellas are:
- Demisexual: Will sometimes feel sexual attraction after a deep, emotional bond has been formed.
- Demiromantic: Will sometimes feel romantic attraction after a deep, emotional bond has been formed.
- Gray-A: Someone whose baseline is aro and/or ace but will sometimes be romantically and/or sexually attracted to other individuals. (There is a huge spectrum of gray aces and gray aros, and there are other terms to specifically identify them.)
And people can be anywhere on the map of this umbrella. For example, I’m a demiaroace. I’m pretty firmly asexual, but I’m demiromantic though my baseline is aro. It’s a little complex for people unfamiliar with the concepts, I know. But a lot of that is due to how unfamiliar this concept is to society—it took me years after accepting my identity to finally be comfortable with my place on the map. (More about that journey, and other things ace/aros have to face over here.) It’s alright for your ace and/or aro friends to change labels as they discover themselves and grow, just the same as it is for any other identity. We’re just humans, same as the rest.
So, if you feel you might identify on the aro/ace spectrum, that’s perfectly fine. There are a lot of us! And if you’re not sure, that’s okay too. You have time. No one’s forcing you to identify right this second. And if you don’t identify as aro/ace at all, I hope that you may have learned a bit more! Always feel free to use my contact page, throw me a DM, or leave me a comment if you have any questions.
That’s about it! I’m hardly the foremost expert on the ace/aro field, so please feel free to leave a comment, @ me, or whatever you’re most comfortable with if you see anything I got wrong, or if I missed anything basic. Thank you for taking the time to read!