Sunday, March 13, 2011

The “R” Word

Tackling Romance and How It Fits In with Asexuality

Part 1 of 2
[Before beginning with this topic I want to reinforce the fact that this is about my personal asexual experience. Like sexuality itself, there are no set rules, only the ones we create for it, and not all asexuals are alike.  There are just as many variations in asexuals as there are in sexuals. Not all asexuals experience attraction in this way.  In fact, there are many asexuals who identify as aromantic, meaning they experience no romantic attraction.] 

When I tell people about asexuality it’s not usually a problem for them.  The immediate connection is; ‘Okay. You don’t want to have sex. Cool.”  However, that is often followed by the assumption that because I don’t experience sexual attraction I’m incapable of being attracted to anyone.  This is where I throw the wild card in and tell people, “Actually, I am attracted to people, just not sexually.”  Because our culture makes it impossible to separate sexuality from attraction this is a puzzling proposition.  For me it’s pretty simple.  I experience romantic attraction, as well as attraction on an aesthetic level.  Aesthetic attraction is simpler to explain.  I can be attracted to someone by the way they look but it doesn’t turn me on or bring up any sexual feelings for me.  For me, being attracted to someone on an aesthetic level is no different than being attracted to a really great piece of art.  It’s the romantic attraction that begins to get sticky and difficult for people to grasp.  It’s the only attraction I’ve ever known, and while I can perfectly understand how other people experience sexual attraction, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around why romantic attraction is devalued or flat out dismissed.  I’ll explain what exactly romantic attraction means for me, but in order to do that I must address my view of romance itself and its context in our culture.   

People, indirectly and other times very plainly, explain to me that what I’m describing to them is impossible.  I can’t be romantically attracted to someone if I don’t have sexual feelings towards them.  I blame this on the fact that in romantic relationships, love is inseparable from sex, and romance is viewed as an accessory to love.  In other words, the belief is that romantic feelings and feelings of love come from the same place.  Being in love with someone and wanting to have sex with them also come from the same place, therefore, it is impossible for me to experience romance without having sex somehow tied into it.  There is a very heavy layer of truth to this, but only because we have carefully set it up that way in a cultural blueprint.

 Chivalry, courting, dating; these are all the makings of the blueprint of romance.  Wikipedia lays it out on the table very clearly under the description of “courting.”

[1]Courtship may include the couple going out together in public, (often known as dating), for a meal, movie, dance, sports or other social activity. Courtship may also involve private activities which usually include much talking together, perhaps by telephone or by electronic means such as text messages or e-mail. There is often exchange of letters, gifts, flowers and songs.

The formula is simple.  All these things are meant to lead up to one result; sex.  Whether trying to court someone into marriage or a relationship, sex is included in that end factor.  However sweetly we try to dress it up, sex is always a part of the end goal.  Because of this, I like to think of romance as similar to hunting.  There is extreme pressure in our culture, particularly on the male, to succeed in this romantic hunt.  Each party involved must first prove themselves worthy of each other, basically performing a mating ritual.  This is called flirting (an artificial exchange where both parties mask and filter parts of their identity and true self in order to see if they are compatible.)  It’s a testing of the waters, getting a feel for if someone is a sweetheart, a prick, or a psychopath.  No one wants to have sex with a psychopath.  Once both parties conclude that they have passed each other’s tests and would like to pursue each other, the romantic hunt continues into it’s next phase; dating.  This is just an extension of the mating ritual, the getting to know someone, or rather “getting to know you and if I want to sleep with you or not.”  Here all the flowers and movies described come into play.  It is all a great test and build up to a single result.  This is not to demean the relationship.  I don’t mean to imply that romance is solely for the purpose of one night stands.  However, even if the end result is a relationship, sex is most certainly expected to be a part of that relationship.  Thus, the hunt still leads to the sex.

This is the plan that has been laid out for couples to come together and I find it lacks authenticity.  There are too many pre-set standards that each partner is playing by, and each one builds a wedge between the organic bond that would happen if, as a society, we weren’t obsessed with following these generic customs or mating rituals.  It’s all laid out for us in men’s and women’s magazines, media, and information passed between peers.  You can pick up any woman’s magazine and read about ways to please a man, or what he really wants from you.  Check any men’s website for directions on how to get a woman to say yes to a date or how to find her G-spot.  This website is complete with top ten lists from what movies to see together to where to kiss someone.

All this predetermined ‘romance’ makes it impossible to set a new relationship off on genuine footing.  You might disagree with all of this, or ask what’s so wrong with it in the first place.  In fact, many see these blueprints as social, romantic, and sexual tools that ease the increasing anxiety of forming legitimate intimacy with another person.  But where do I, an asexual who wants to form romantic relationships, fit in with all of this?  Why would I want to partake in a hunt where the end reward is not what I want at all?  In the second part of this essay I will address what romance is to me and how I navigate my way through this maze of social sexual design.



  1. I liked your explanation of romantic attraction and aesthetic attraction here. I got an article published last month about romantic vs. sexual attraction and I can share it with you if you haven't seen it and want to. Thanks for adding your voice! We need it!

  2. Thanks! I'd be really interested in reading it if you want to link me to it.

  3. Cool . . . my article was published in Good Vibrations and the link is here: