This week is Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week. Following such a romantic holiday as Valentine’s Day, Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week promotes awareness and celebration of people who experience little to no romantic attraction.
But what does that mean? What is aromanticism and how does it work?
The best place to start is to understand what attraction means. In simple terms, attraction has to do with how much you like or are interested in someone or something.
When most people hear the term ‘attraction’ they tend to think of sexual attraction. Whether or not you are interested in or like having sex with men, women and/or non-binary people is often our first way of understanding our own attractions. Sexual attraction is a fluid and physical response to particular people and things, and can range from being very intense to completely absent. But this is only one of many forms of attraction!
Let’s start with sensual attraction, which is very close to sexual attraction but with a significant difference. While sexual attraction is about the desire to have sex with someone, sensual attraction is the desire to have physical contact with someone except sex. Wanting to hug, cuddle, hold, or just be close to someone does not necessarily mean you also want to have sex with them. If you feel drawn to touch someone but not have sex with them then you may be experiencing sensual attraction. Just remember: all forms of touching, sexual or not, require consent first!
Aesthetic attraction is next, and is all about finding someone or something pretty, but not necessarily sexy. Like a work of art. You can think ‘wow, that person is gorgeous’ but not want to hook up with them. When a straight guy says ‘that dude is objectively handsome,’ he is demonstrating aesthetic attraction. He is recognizing that the other man is good looking, without actually wanting to have sex with him.
There is also platonic attraction, which has to do with your friendships. What kind of people do you feel pulled toward as friends, but not for sex? Who do you look at and think: ‘wow, I like that person, they’re so cool and I want to be their friend!’ Platonic attraction is about the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with as friends. So if someone is ‘homosocial’ it means they only tend to make friends with people of the same gender.
And this leads us to our final form of attraction, and the focus of Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week, romantic attraction! Romantic attraction has to do with who or what you fall in love with. This is often conflated with sexual attraction, but is actually a separate thing! So you could be homosexual (same-sex attracted) but heteroromantic (you only fall in love with the opposite sex). Levels of romantic attraction can seriously vary. Some people are very romantically-inclined, and love things like emotional intimacy, while other people feel little to no romantic attraction at all.
All forms of attraction exist on a spectrum, both in regards to who and what you’re attracted to, and how intensely you’re attracted to them. For aromantic people, this spectrum could include feeling disgusted or uncomfortable with romance all the way to getting married but perhaps having a non-traditional style of relationship. There are lots of different ways to experience romantic attraction, just as there are lots of different ways of experiencing aromanticism.
The important thing is to remember that everyone experiences all five forms of attraction differently, and that each of these is perfectly valid. So this week, now that Valentine’s Day is over and we’ve celebrated romance to the extreme, let’s take some time to recognize, spread awareness about and celebrate those who are aromantic!
For more information about the aromantic spectrum and Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week, please check out: http://www.arospecweek.org/