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A Life of Other Loves

By Rose Cunningham and Avery Benbow

Note: This article is formed around the responses and experiences of real people, who helped us understand why Valentine's Day can be exclusionary.


Contents:

  • Why is there an issue with how love is presented in society?

  • What stereotypes exist for aro/ace folks?

  • What do committed relationships for aro ace people look like?

  • What is Aro / Ace outside of the stereotypes?

  • Aro / Ace Icons

  • Aro / Ace memes


Valentine’s Day… the cornerstone of our society’s ruling that to be romantically involved with someone in a predetermined way is the pinnacle of existence. Romcoms, soul mates, “do you have a boyfriend?'' questions, love heart bears at Woolies and the saying that “love (implying romantic and sexual love) is what makes us human”. This culture assumes being romantically involved with someone is the only backdrop for true love. However, have you ever heard of asexuality or aromanticism? During the time of hearts, kisses and chocolate, it's time for us to understand more than just the stereotypical relationships that exist.


Sexualities:

  • Alloromantic: the orientation of someone who does not fall on the aromantic spectrum, e.g., straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, etc.

  • Aromantic (aro): a romantic orientation involving experiencing little to no romantic attraction, which exists on a spectrum and also describes experiences of divergence in societal expectations of romance and interest in it.

  • Allosexual: the orientation of someone who does not fall on the asexual spectrum, e.g., straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, etc. (different to alloromantic).

  • Asexual (ace): a sexual orientation involving experiencing little to no sexual attraction, which exists on a spectrum and is different to sexual desire/libido.

  • Aroace: an orientation in which a person identifies as both aromantic and asexual.

  • Demi-romantic/sexual: a romantic/sexual orientation describing those who only experience romantic/sexual attraction towards other people once they have a strong bond with that person, and this attraction too may be infrequent.

  • Grey aromantic/asexual: a romantic/sexual orientation describing those who are aromantic/asexual but still may experience romantic/sexual attraction conditionally, mildly or infrequently.

  • The aro/ace spectrum(s): umbrella terms for all aromantic/asexual orientations, within which there is a large amount of diversity.


Why is there an issue with how love is presented in society?


Amatonormativity: the widespread assumption that the ultimate goal in life is to achieve a particular form of monogamous romantic and sexual love, and that alternatives to this “end” are somehow inferior.


Think about society’s presentation of love, whether it be in media or real life… one-dimensional to say the least. Particularly in media and societal expectations, amatonormativity is ingrained into humans from a young age. We grow up believing at some point we will find the “one”, who will become our other half in all matters of love, be a fulfilling romantic and sexual partner, and will be the person we eventually marry, live in a house and raise kids with. Having a successful romantic relationship with that one special person is presented to be the be-all-end-all in most movies and media out there.


This is damaging because we are made to believe that a romantic connection is more important than all other aspects of our everyday existence. This includes the special connection and the kind of love we share with family and friends. It also doesn’t allow for divergence from this preconceived idea of how to achieve happiness, which may be because of choice or reasons which prohibit them from following this stereotypical concept of how someone’s life should play out.


Another issue is the way that the idea of “love” is mass marketed in a manner that can often be considered heteronormative, and the idea that everyone feels these feelings of romance and sexual desire. It excludes a community of people who make up more than twice the population of Denmark (the number is about 1% of the world’s population). This also costs big brand money, because they fail to acknowledge other “loves''. So, if you aren’t making your romance and love products more inclusive for the people you exclude - do it for the financial gains!


What stereotypes exist for aro/ace folks?


  • Sexual attraction: makes people desire sexual contact with another person. Significant attraction to another person in this way can be called a smush.

  • Romantic attraction: makes people desire romantic contact with another person. Significant attraction to another person in this way can be called a crush.

  • Alterous attraction: desiring a type of emotional closeness with someone that isn’t accurately characterised by “platonic,” “romantic” or other attractions, often falling somewhere in between. It is similar to queerplatonic attraction.

Significant attraction to another person in this way can be called a mesh.


Far too often, we associate asexuality and aromanticism with being a cold-hearted robot, alien or some type of non-human, emotionless creature - but the lovable Issac Henderson (read more below) is about as far from that as you could ever get. For starters, as aforementioned, aromanticism and asexuality exist on a spectrum. Love comes in many forms: romantic, platonic, and some that don’t have or need a label. Love is personal and doesn’t need to be judged or put into boxes by society.


Another stereotype is that all aro/ace people just need to “find the right person” and that (much like what is often told to other LGBTQIA2S+ people) “it is just a phase”. While for some people labels change over time, for a large number of people, they won’t. Most aro/ace people won’t experience a change in their experience of attraction. This is a generalisation because some folks on the aro/ace spectrum do experience romantic or sexual attraction such as grey-romantic/-sexual and demi-romantic/-sexual folks, the definitions for which are above.


What do committed relationships for aro ace people look like?


Queerplatonic relationship: a relationship that works in a way in between or outside the stereotypical outlines of a platonic or romantic relationship.


It is perfectly normal for somebody to choose to not be in a committed relationship. This choice could be due to a multitude of reasons, and one of them could be because of a divergence in their attraction experience from the alloromantic and allosexual experience. Because of this, they could choose to instead focus on themselves, friends, family, work, or any of the abundant aspects of the human experience. However, just because someone is on the aromantic or asexual spectrum (or both) in some capacity, doesn’t mean they won’t partake in a committed relationship.


Aros and aces can partake in a variety of types of committed relationships if they so choose. This can include stereotypical romantic and sexual ones, depending on where they might fall on the aromantic and asexual spectrums. However, the relationship may operate in a slightly different way. This would be based on the different needs of participants in the relationship who are on the ace or aro spectrums.


Another form a committed relationship could take is a queerplatonic one. This type of relationship can come in an endless variety, based on individual outlines. For example, people could share a house, children, major life events and plans, cuddle, etc., being dedicated to each other with loyalty exceeding friendship, without it being romantic.


What is aro/ace outside of the stereotypes?


At the end of the day, aro/ace/aro ace people are just people who experience attraction and relationships that don’t fit society’s expectations. However, the communities can face a lot of hate and negativity, through stereotypes and misunderstanding. So how can we make society more understanding and inclusive of these proud people with valid identities? In a form about people on the aro and ace spectrums we sent out, some of the main points people put forward were:

  • Properly appreciating/representing platonic and familial love

  • Giving more positive representation to the defiance of amatonormativity

  • Normalising different experiences of love and relationships

  • Representation and education of aromanticism and asexuality

  • Widespread understanding of different types of attraction and people’s experience of them

  • Making demonstrations of love that isn’t always romantic/sexual

  • Not assuming things about people based on stereotypes

  • Accepting different identities and the subdivisions within those

  • Realising that aro and ace people exist and have valid identities


And now that you’re more educated on the A specs, let’s hear it for the Aro / Ace Icons



Name: Isaac Henderson

Pronouns: he/him

Age: 15 (2022)

Appears in: Heartstopper by Alice Oseman TV adaptation (read more about Alice below)

Ways they show love: dragging Charlie to watch his boyfriend play rugby

Unique characteristic: constantly reading a book

Romantic/sexual orientation: aro ace



Name: Elsa

Pronouns: she/her

Age: 24 (Frozen II)

Appears in: Frozen, Frozen II

Ways they show love: sisterly love for Anna, whose life she saved by embracing her frozen body, and her creation of Olaf

Unique characteristic: has the power to create and control ice and snow

Romantic/sexual orientation: aro ace (presumed)



Name: Douglas “Ca$h” Piggott

Pronouns: he/him

Age: 18 (2022)

Appears in: Heartbreak High (Netflix show)

Ways they show love: takes care of his grandma and enters a romantic relationship with Darren

Unique characteristic: is an eshay

Romantic/sexual orientation: undefined romantic orientation (not aromantic) and asexual



Name: Georgia Warr

Pronouns: she/her

Age: 18 (Loveless)

Appears in: Loveless (book by Alice Oseman)

Ways they show love: relationships with her best friends

Unique characteristic: has an obsession with romantic fan-fics

Romantic/sexual orientation: aro ace



Name: Forsythe Pendleton "Jughead" Jones III

Pronouns: he/him

Age: teenager (in high school)

Appears in: Archie Comics (comics the show Riverdale was based on)

Ways they show love: extreme loyalty to his close friends, for example, always bailing his friend, Archie, out of trouble and emotionally supporting his other friend, Betty

Unique characteristic: constantly wears his unique crown cap as a good luck charm

Romantic/sexual orientation: aro ace



Name: Todd Chavez

Pronouns: he/him

Age: 30 (show finale)

Appears in: BoJack Horseman (show)

Ways they show love: puts effort into helping others

Unique characteristic: is quite lazy until something perks his interest

Romantic/sexual orientation: undefined romantic orientation (not aromantic) and asexual



Name: Florence

Pronouns: she/her

Age: teenager (in high school)

Appears in: Sex Education (show)

Ways they show love: defending those who she cares about

Unique characteristic: is passionate about acting

Romantic/sexual orientation: undefined romantic orientation (not aromantic) and asexual



Name: Tori Spring

Pronouns: she/her

Age: 16

Appears in: Alice Oseman Novels, such as Heartstopper comics (and show) and Solitaire

Ways they show love: cares deeply for those who she loves and is there for Charlie (her brother) when he needs her.

Unique characteristic: “Older sister magic”

Romantic/sexual orientation: aromantic spectrum (potentially demi-romantic) and asexual



Name: Alice Oseman

Pronouns: They/She They/She

Age: 28

Occupation Writer and illustrator of the Heartstopper books and all other Alice Oseman novelsCareer: Author and illustrator of Heartstopper and all other Alice Oseman Novels/Comics

Ways they show love: Creates incredible queer rep and seems to be a brilliant person Creates (heartstopping) queer rep and seems to be a brilliant person

Unique characteristic: creates the perfect golden retriever character with incredible drawing skills

Romantic/sexual orientation: aro ace



Hopefully, this article has enlightened you on the aro ace spectrum, and as a fun way to celebrate Valentine’s Day as an allo/asexual, allo/aromantic or anywhere in between, please enjoy the complementary aro and ace memes - the consequences of Pinterest.


Aroace:


Asexual:


Aromantic:





References and Further Reading:

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