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Culture

Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week

By Jayne Renault

For a lot of people, the middle of February means Valentine’s Day: a time to center romantic love and spend money on cute and cheesy gifts for the special someone(s) in their life. It also promotes sexual affection in a big way, although this too is often in the context of committed romantic relationships.

So, what about the people who don’t experience romantic attraction and desire in that way? Luckily, Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week is following hot on the heels of the V-Day romance frenzy to answer that question and more.

Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week

While the first Aromantic Awareness Week took place in November of 2014, the event was moved to February the following year and the name changed to the more inclusive Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week (ASAW). In 2021, there were a grand total of 6 states and cities that recognized this weeklong event, indicating that awareness is indeed growing. Such official recognition is not necessary for such an event to be held. But the more ASAW is embraced publicly, the greater the success of its mission.

ASAW typically takes place during the first full week that follows Valentine’s Day. From February 20 to 26 this year, the week is dedicated to promoting awareness, understanding, and compassion for aromantic spectrum (also sometimes referred to as aro-spec) individuals. And after the LGBTQIA wiki removed all of its aromantic microlabel pages mere days ahead of this year’s ASAW, it feels especially pertinent that we come together to combat arophobia on all sides; to celebrate and support the aromantic branch of our community.

What is Aromanticism?

Aromanticism is a romantic orientation characterized by a lack of romantic attraction or interest in romantic relationships. The opposite of aromantic is alloromantic: a tendency to experience romantic feelings for others, or the desire to pursue romantic relationships.

Because they seem to overlap for many people, the distinction between sexual and romantic orientation is not always clear or understood, which is part of the challenge of pinpointing was aromanticism is. Sexual orientation refers to who you’re more likely to feel sexual attraction or desire towards, while romantic orientation indicates who you’re likely to develop feelings of romantic love for, or want to pursue a romantic relationship.

 

While Aromantic is included in the queer alphabet (the A in LGBTQIA+ stands for Aromantic, Asexual, and Agender), aromanticism is not correlated with any particular gender or sexual orientation. Aro-spec people, who can be of any gender or sexual orientation themselves, feel little to no romantic attraction or the desire to pursue romantic relationships with anyone, regardless of gender. Because there are nuances to how this can be expressed in each aromantic individual, aromanticism is said to exist on a spectrum. 

Other identities on the aromantic spectrum include:

- Gray-romantic: only experiencing romantic feelings occasionally or rarely

- Demiromantic: only experiencing romantic feelings towards another person after a strong emotional connection has been formed

- Lithromantic or Akoiromantic: only experiencing romantic feelings toward another person as long as those feelings are not reciprocated. (When romantic desire is returned, the attraction weakens or disappears.)

- Recipromantic: only experiencing romantic feelings under the condition that they know the feelings are mutual

- Aroflux: when romantic attraction tendencies shift over time

Common Aromantic Myths

Because the identification of aromanticism is relatively new, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths that surround it. Most of all, if you or someone you know is aromantic, there is nothing wrong with that. Aromanticism is not a disease of mental illness. It’s a valid identity on the spectrum of human existence. As awareness grows, so too will acceptance and understanding. 

In the spirit of ASAW, here are some of the common misunderstandings that need debunking:

Aromanticism and asexuality are the same thing

Aromanticism is often conflated with asexuality, but asexuality refers to a lack of sexual attraction. While there are some conceptual similarities and the communities often overlap, aromantic and asexual are not synonymous terms. Asexuals can have strong romantic inclinations, and aromantics can be of any sexual orientation.

Aromantics are commitment-phobes

Aro-spec people can and do form important, fulfilling, and loving relationships with other people. Their relationships are simply not driven by or built on romantic feelings. These relationships can be can be monogamous or polyamorous, sexual or queerplatonic (meaning that they are more intimate or consciously committed than a so-called regular friendship, though still not romantic). 

Aromantics just hate romance

Aromantic people may not feel romantic attraction, but that doesn’t mean they hate the concept of romance. Aro-spec people can find plenty of enjoyment in romantic themes in media and entertainment. We don’t explode if we find pleasure in singing along with a good love song.

“You just haven’t found the right person yet”

There are few things more disheartening, especially when you’re still trying to find your footing in your identity, than when people dismiss you and lived experience as a phase or problem that needs correcting, and that the right person can and will “fix” you. Aromantics are whole beings who simply lack a desire to form romantic relationships; they are not broken things needing to be fixed.  

Aromantics are averse to touch and/or sex

People or any romantic orientation can vary in their want and need for physical attention and sexual touch, both of which can be healthily desired without romantic feelings being involved. Unless they are also asexual, many aromantics enjoy happy, healthy sex drives as well as partner sex lives.

Aromantic means you’re emotionally numb or can’t feel love

The stereotyping and pathologizing of aromantics as cold, narcissistic, sociopathic is all too common and baseless. But aromanticism is a lack of romantic feelings towards other people or the desire to pursue romantic relationships with them, not a lack of emotional intelligence and depth. And love comes in many forms.  

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