Asexual Awaresness Week 2018: The split attraction model, respectability politics, and the confusion of aroaceness

Tl;dr Alloro asexuals are still playing a game of respectability politics that throws aroaces under the bus. I am still conflicted over anything that separates the aro and ace parts of my aroaceness.


I started writing a whole thing about the discourse for Ace Awareness Week and then decided that I am really sick of talking about the discourse and this is my one fucking week to ignore it.


So, I want to talk the split attraction model.


Not in a discourse-y way. I know some people like to call it homophobic (or something? I’m very confused by this).


Not even in deeply critical way. It’s super useful for some people, it’s less useful for others. That tends to be how models worksfor people.


I want to talk about how the split attraction model has created a space for alloro asexual people to sound smart while they write off and ignore aroaces and how this has led towards aromantic separatism and how ambivalent that makes me feel.


Quick rundown for folks who have no idea what I’m talking about: The split attraction model basically splits sexual and romantic attraction into two different concepts. For example, someone could be asexual and homoromantic. Or homosexual and biromantic. Etc.etc. You get the picture.


This is great because it created both a possibility for asexual people that do experience romantic attraction to define their identities and a possibility for the existence of aromanticism.


Except, it’s also steeped in respectability politics because it allows for such statements as “I may be asexual, but I still LOVE”. And the aroace person sitting here goes, “yeah?????? So I don’t love because I don’t experience romantic attraction? So I’m not human? But that’s ok because some asexual identities have now been made more palatable to society?”


I KNOW I said I didn’t want to talk discourse, but it’s also here: homoromantic and biromantic asexuals (as well as trans asexuals), have also historically used their other queer identity to claim queerness, completely the queerness of heteroromantic asexuals and aroaces.


At the same time, the asexual community loves to discuss how asexuality is conflated with aromanticism. How, apparently, this conflation is deeply harmful to all asexuals and terrible and ignorant and needs to stop.


Alloro asexuals are playing a game of respectability politics and they justify it by conflating a harmful stereotype with actual representation and support for aroaces. But the split attraction models gives them the ability to sound fancy and legitimate while they do it.


Yes, it’s harmful to conflate asexuality and aromanticism.


But also – I’m fucking aroace. I literally cannot tell the difference between the two damn parts of my identity. I write “aroace” because I have no fucking clue what bits are “aro” and what bits are “ace”. Am I harming alloro asexuals by not being able to perfectly pick apart my identity to their satisfaction?


Maybe in another context I would be, but in a context in which alloro asexuals are actively distancing themselves from arospec folks through this respectability game, I question that. Is the need to challenge the conflation of asexuality and aromanticism because of the harm it does or is it because aromanticism is still seen as bad? Is it because we still equate aromanticism with being not human? Is it because alloro asexuals cannot “gain respect” in our status quo society unless they separate from arospec identities?


In fact, we do regularly conflate sexual and romantic attractions, for better or for worse. Consider heterosexual and heteroromantic people. Their experiences may be completely different if they are not both heterosexual AND heteroromantic, but they still share common experiences and they still benefit from straight privilege, even if they do not always or fully benefit from it due to intersecting identities. I’m not sure if this is the right lens to be looking at the world, but the undeniable fact is that we only start using the split attraction model to distance a sexual identity from its counterpart romantic identity when we’re talking asexuality, and it is most commonly used in the “asexual people can still feel ATTRACTION” conversation.


(I know there have been some arguments about whether or not an asexual heteroromantic person is truly straight. Probably not, but that doesn’t mean the heteroromantic side of their identity doesn’t accord them certain privileges, and that’s worth recognizing. I also want to  point out that many of these arguments involve discoursers who claim “cishet aces” can’t be queer. Personally, I believe that, considering that there are also straight trans folks who do, in fact, benefit from straight privilege, and that straight aces and straight aros will also benefit from straight privilege in their own ways, it’s a little more accurate to point out that there are straight queer people).


There’s now a movement for arospec people to separate. This is, in part, a result of the respectability politics which throw arospecs under the bus, and I do truly believe that arospecs should have a community in which we can actually discuss aro-related experiences as primary, as opposed to secondary to asexuality, which is what happens in asexual spaces. (It is also a simply result of growing numbers, network building, and a stronger overall recognition of allosexual aromantic folks, all of which are splendid developments!)


But, I’m still struggling to embrace the new arospec communities because, once again, I feel like I have to put half of my aroaceness on hold and find whatever the distinction is between “ace” and “aro”. The arospec community definitely does a good job in not throwing aroaces under the bus for “being stereotypes” (etcetcetc) and it is where productive discussions about aroace representation and inclusion are happening, so I want to be part of it. But the fact that these communities have been separated and continue to create distance between themselves continues this pressure to separate out the ace and aro in my own identity.


For me, they aren’t distinct.  I am not ace, I am not aro, I am aroace. And now, this singular identity I have is split between two communities. And, while one is doing best to really include my experiences, the other has branded me as a harmful stereotype. And both require a certain amount of splitting myself in two.


I do feel safer in the newer arospec-focused communities. I feel less pressure and stress, but I also haven’t felt ready to engage. I haven’t been able to quite hold the same excitement and commitment many arospecs in these spaces seem to have. I’m someone that found my identity, including my aroaceness in the asexual community. I can’t quite figure out how I fit into this new community. And I can’t quite wrap my head around two communities.


And alloro asexuals? I think the actual answer is that you do better. Aroaces aren’t harmful stereotypes, we’re people. AND the stereotype that all aces are aro does not actually privilege or benefit aroaces, especially not as long as you keep treating aromanticism as a nasty side thing that you can ignore to gain respectability.


The split attraction model is useful, but it’s not an excuse to throw us under the bus.


Some of us do conflate asexuality and aromanticism because that is our experience. It’s not a personal attack on you. It’s not an expectation that you become aromantic (that would be stupid).


But, and this is the huge one, all people are human regardless of whether or not we LOVE.


You don’t get to use your allromanticism against arospecs.


Aroaces are part of your community. Treat us like we’re human.



3 thoughts on “Asexual Awaresness Week 2018: The split attraction model, respectability politics, and the confusion of aroaceness

  1. Hey, my experience is very different from yours (I’m not aromantic), but I, too, take issue with the way romantic relationships between aces are held up as proof that asexuals can love. As someone who does not experience romantic attraction (or, at least, has no way of distinguishing it from friendship), I do not believe the love I feel is less real because it happens not to be romantic or sexual. And as a community the message we should be spreading is not “romantic love is love (even if it doesn’t involve sex)!”, it’s “ALL love is love, and deserves to be respected and validated!”

    Liked by 2 people

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