Asexual, Aromantic, Non-sexual, or Non-romantic relationships are found with both binary and nonbinary individuals. This report, based on first hand experience, addresses these issues. It also considers Androgyny
Once upon a time discussions around sexual orientation focused on the initials LGBT to represent the diversity of sexual and gender minorities. In recent times these letters expanded and are likely to continue to expand. When we reached LGBTQIA I started to get excited because suddenly there was a letter that described me – the ‘A’.
Generally speaking the A (also called ‘Ace‘) refers to Asexuality although sometimes it can also include Aromantic individuals. The first point I should make here is that not all asexual people are aromantic and not all aromantic people are asexual. However I happen to think of myself as being both.
An asexual person experiences little to no sexual attraction to other people – regardless of their gender. An aromantic person experiences little of no romantic attraction to other people. If you are interested in a simple explanation of all the definitions for these groups (as of June 2018) the New York Times presented a handy summary – link is here.
In the title to this article I also mentioned androgyny. An androgynous person typically will have both male and female characteristics or alternatively they may be described as being neither clearly masculine nor feminine in appearance and/or manner. An androgynous person is not necessarily asexual – they can have physical and emotional relationships with other people (of either gender based on their personal preferences).
A small minority of people will consider themselves to be asexual, aromantic and also be androgynous in appearance. I will use some photos of androgynous people to illustrate this article but this does not imply anything about their sexual preferences. Try to guess the ‘declared’ gender at birth of the models in these pics?
The reason for writing this article is to share some of the characteristics of an asexual, aromantic person in order to provide encouragement to others who may have noticed similar attributes in themselves. If this is you – you are not a misfit – in fact you are very special. I personally love thinking of myself as being officially ‘Ace’!
One important thing to understand is that although ace people may not be physically or emotionally attracted to another single person they do need friendships. In fact friendships and family relationships can be even more important to ace people to counteract the lack of a single close physical/emotional bond.
Ace people can have what appear to be perfectly normal marriages and long term partnerships. These can be straight or gay. Just because a person does not feel a classical physical or emotional attraction to another person this does not mean they are incapable of being a caring, dedicated, and devoted partner.
Although this may appear to be a contradiction it is actually just biology in action. Physical attraction is important in order to find a suitable partner but once that partner has been found and mating has taken place other aspects of a relationship can determine the successful transfer of one’s genes to the next generation.
Once a family has been started the success of the unit can depend very much on the ability of the parents to provide and care for their offspring. If a parent has a high requirement for a physical relationship – this person may well seek to satisfy this desire outside of the family unit particularly during periods in which the partner is unable or unwilling to provide physical satisfaction.
These periods could be a reflection of the female menstrual cycle, menopause, or the requirement for the male to leave the home to secure necessary resources (e.g. hunting buffalo or going away on business trips). During times of such sexual desire ‘miss-match‘ it can be quite beneficial if the unencumbered partner has a low need for physical sexual gratification from their partner. Some degree of asexuality can actually contribute to a successful family unit.
One problem with modern society is that we are bombarded with expectations or ‘norms‘ for a so called ‘successful’ relationship. These norms are often developed to promote the marketing of clothing, make-up, perfumery, travel and other relationship focused products. Valentines Day is not a product of evolution – it is a marketing gimmick.
A good partner does not need to send you a card or a bunch of flowers (or even have regular sex) – but they will probably kill in order to ensure the survival of your joint offspring. Therefore asexual/aromantic genes have survived despite millions of years of natural selection. They can help ensure survival of the next generation – even if they may be a bit cool when it comes to a cuddle.
Unfortunately people in a long-term relationship may be unaware that one partner is asexual/aromantic. This can lead to conflict. These may be minor niggles: ‘You never kiss me/buy me flowers!” or more serious issues: ‘Are you having an affair/are you gay?‘. A lack of the obvious signs of physical or emotional interest can be misinterpreted by a partner – they may surmise that these ‘needs’ are being satisfied elsewhere. They rarely appreciate that the needs simply don’t exist!
This is sad because the conflicts that come from such misunderstandings can destroy an otherwise healthy long term relationship. As a result asexual/aromantic partners often develop enhanced acting skills. It is not difficult to work out what the perfect spouse/partner is expected to do – mimicry is also an important biological survival skill.
I suspect a lot of asexual/aromantic individuals are happily pursuing what appear to be normal relationships. For those of us existing outside of a relationship we can be quite content living on our own but having strong friendships and family bonds. This is important to meet our socio-biological needs otherwise there is a risk of depression setting in. We are not asocial – we can actually develop very rewarding friendships and may be very important wider family contributors.
We can even enter into what appear to be normal partnerships – although we may secretly consider our partners to be our best friends rather than lovers. When we make love it is because we enjoy the pleasure this gives to our ‘best friend’ – in fact one sign of an asexual person is that they enjoy performing foreplay for their partner – even to the extent that their own sexual ‘gratification’ may get overlooked.
So, if some of the things I have described appear familiar to yourself or someone you know well, my key message is ‘don’t panic!‘. Relationships with asexual/aromantic people are not doomed to failure – but they can be helped considerably if you understand more about one-another.
And if you are not in a one-to-one relationship with another person and don’t have the slightest desire to start one this could simply be because you are one of these very special ‘Ace’ people. Work harder on your other friendships and the contacts you have with your family members. If you do not have a dedicated single relationship you should have considerably more capacity available to invest in your other friendships.
Whichever path you follow – being asexual or aromantic can lead to a very fulfilling and happy life. Just keep in mind – you are ace!
Oh and before I forget – on the Androgyny front – As a child and into my teens I was pretty androgynous. This changed as my sex hormones started pumping away in late adolescence. I’m unsure if this is related in any way to my asexuality or aromantic behaviour. I don’t really feel any physical or romantic attraction to either gender. I do however find androgynous models visually very attractive (artistically speaking) and tend to use any excuse to post their photos on my websites!