Tl;dr Happy ASAW! I’ve been reanalyzing my guilt around my love of romance as an aromantic person and re-owning my aromanticism as something that is useful for me.
I honestly struggled to write for ASAW this year. Last year, it was easy – ASAW was tiny and I could write about that. I wrote about burn out. I wrote about how frustrating it is that aromanticism is so often a footnote to asexuality. All good, relevant stuff.
But this year, things are happening for ASAW! Arospecs are back with a vengeance and it’s been so wonderful to watch. I’m EXCITED!
I’ve also been recently reminded of how much I absolutely adore romance and it’s making me feel a bit weird about my aromanticism, but mostly it reminded me of how and why I started identifying as aromantic.
A while back, I was going back and forth with a friend about what romantic attraction was. I kept on talking about “friend attraction” and trying to differentiate it from romantic attraction and they kept going, “what the hell is that?” and then would describe romantic attraction in a way that felt incredibly alien to me. I realized that either the attachment I felt for my friends was romantic attraction, even if it didn’t feel at all romantic to me, or that I experienced attraction that had nothing to do with romantic attraction. I was still very unclear on the subject, but figured aromantic was probably a useful word to describe my confusion (of course, wtfromantic is probably the best fit, but sometimes it’s useful to have a word that’s a little more well-known).
Of course, platonic attraction is something we’ve discussed in arospec and acespec communities. While I haven’t seen discussions from aplatonic folks recently (for the record “aplatonic” pretty much is a descriptor for aro folks who don’t experience squishes (nonromantic crush) ), I have a feeling those conversations are still happening, and I think the fact that we have to have that discussion in the aro community, that there is a word for “squish” (I tend to just say crush anyways because I got sick of having to define it), and that there was a huge focus on queerplatonic relationships for a good long time in the aro community tells me that I was probably onto something with defining “friend attraction” as different from romantic attraction. Maybe. I don’t know. At least it seems like some other people have had the same thoughts.
That’s a side thing. The real thought is that, back then, when I started identifying as aromantic, I still adored the concept of romance. So, then the word “cupioromantic” (aromantic, but likes romance) started showing up and I went, “WHOA! That’s totally me! Other aromantic people also want romance!” It was very exciting.
And then I found this post. I feel like linking this comes with a lot of caveats – most notably, the author has since abandoned the blog and states that their opinions are very different now. I think that’s great. I’m not the best at owning my changing views and opinions, so I deeply admire when someone else does.
That said, it does not negate the harm that reading this post did to me while I was young(er), identifying as aromantic because nothing else really made sense, and trying to figure out what that meant for my love of romance.
The idea of an asexual person wanting sex is more reasonable and justifiable than an aromantic person wanting romance?
Cupioromanticism comes from a misguided place of internalized amatonormativity?
Cupioromanticism invalidates queerplatonic relationships and other committed, intimate, platonic relationships?
The only thing that defines romantic relationships as romantic is attraction?
I never got through the whole post. I felt stupid. I felt evil. I felt like a monster for even daring to like the concept of romance. I was a an evil, dirty traitor to all aromantic people everywhere because I kind of liked the idea of cute romantic gestures that were romantic and I couldn’t tell you how I knew they were romantic and not platonic, but I could tell you I was pretty sure attraction wasn’t involved.
And I didn’t let myself think about it for a long time, and then I kind of stopped thinking about it. It’s only quite recently that I’m remembering that I even ever thought about it.
I do think there is some logic here – defining romantic attraction is hard because it’s no one act or behavior that’s attractive (not that sex is a single, monolithic act either), and much of what is defined as “romantic” does show up in non-romantic relationships (sometimes more than we want to admit). Cupioromanticism does allow arospecs to play a game of respectability politics where we can assimilate in allo folks’ definition of romance, even without the attraction. And, I have a strong feeling every arospec person in the world has a huge amount of internalized amatonormativity that they have to grapple with every fucking day and some of it may manifest in reaches towards romance.
But the thing that gets me as I reread this post years later is the blame and I think that’s why it hurt me so much. The post made me feel like it was my fault and a major problem that I liked romance. I was the one who was misguided, unrealistic, and invalidating queer platonic partnerships. I think some of that speaks to how young I was back then, but it also speaks to how young the author was. When I reread it, a good five years later, I still read the blame, but I also read the hurt and panic and the need to be heard.
With that knowledge, it’s a lot easier to forgive myself for liking romance.
So, this ASAW, I’m still solidly a wtfromantic who fucking adores romance. It’s taken me about six years (almost exactly) and I’ve gone a rather circuitous route, but, this time, I’m back at the beginning. My instincts were about as right as they could be and I’m thankful for it.
The thing is, we take identities for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, it’s because it fits perfectly, but sometimes it’s because we might as well, or because it’s the easiest option out of all the options available. That doesn’t make the identity any less of n identity. My relationship with my aromantic identity is different than with my asexual or trans identities because of that, but I am still happily aromantic, because why the fuck not?
It works for me.