As part of our month of talking about sex, Stephanie Farnsworth considers why aromanticism is perceived as emotionless, and addresses why sex does not have to be exclusively based in feelings of romantic love.
I’m the joke of the group. In the nice way. In the isn’t-she’s-hilarious-and-oh-so-brave-but-let’s-not-be-her kind of way. I like it, really, because my friend’s lives seem as baffling to me as I know mine does to them. We needle each other constantly, it’s a nice and truer form of banter, but it is also revealing. You see, I’m the aromantic bisexual that The Daily Mail definitely did warn you about, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I get the jokes about settling down one day (even though I’m screaming inside that we’re only in our twenties) and the comments from well-intentioned friends that one day I will find the right person. I don’t quite understand why that’s supposed to be relevant or at all reassuring. It goes over my head much the same way as whenever poor David Davis is forced to stand up at the dispatches box and try to tell us all that ‘Brexit means Brexit’.
However, let’s clear a few things up: I do not need saving and nor does ‘aromantic bisexual’ equate to being an emotionless android plotting to destroy the world. America just elected that. Much like asexuality, the label of ‘aromantic’ falls somewhere on a spectrum. I’m probably capable of falling in love one day (although my anxiety and the subsequent intimacy issues would much rather I didn’t) and if I do, I’m pretty sure it’ll be with someone of the same gender but romantic feelings for me are as rare as pangolins. I’ve never been in love. I’ve had strong romantic feelings once in my life, and they didn’t last at all long. For years, I wondered whether being forced to remain in the closet as bisexual had somehow destroyed my soul and my capacity to love when actually, my experiences of romantic feelings are just a bit more rare and hard to come by than everyone else’s.
However, let’s clear a few things up: I do not need saving and nor does ‘aromantic bisexual’ equate to being an emotionless android plotting to destroy the world.
People always wonder how this conflicts with my bisexuality and the answer is that it actually doesn’t. How many people are ever in love with the people they engage in sexual relationships with? Being in a relationship, any kind of relationship, is always valid. A short-term connection, based on mutual respect, admiration but without romantic feelings, can be just as rewarding as any other kind of relationship – including long-term monogamous ones.
Aromantic doesn’t mean lacking in all feelings. Aromantic people can experience some romantic attraction but they can also deeply appreciate a person as a friend and/or partner. It can be a complicated process at first of trying to work out your identity; knowing you really like someone but it doesn’t just quite fit the definition of being in a ‘romantic’ way. Each connection can be incredibly deep and personal but it’s just not experienced in a way that society likes to present and laud as the right way. We’re not any less likely to be respectful and for those of us who do prefer short-term relationships, there’s at least the knowledge that we’ll never have the chance to leave anyone with the washing up or ironing every night.
Aromantic people can experience some romantic attraction but they can also deeply appreciate a person as a friend and/or partner.
It doesn’t mean cheating. To equate being aromantic and being bisexual with being manipulative, greedy, selfish liars is one of the greatest slurs against us and it does put us in danger. Statistics show that bisexual people are far more likely to experience intimate partner violence and a huge amount of this stems from jealousy which is fuelled by these dangerous myths about our identities.
It’s not necessarily about wanting to date around either. If people want to date multiple people that’s fine, so long as all the parties are aware of that. There’s nothing wrong with dating at all but there’s plenty of aromantic bisexual people who rarely ever date and don’t want casual sex. It’s a personal thing.
Sex is infinitely complex too. Everyone sees it in a different way. For some, it’s as fun and casual as deciding whether or not to go ice skating – and I prefer to view it in that way. A lot of would-be romantic views of sex, such as waiting for the right time and being the best lover possible, are usually centered around patriarchal and competitive ideas of sex. Each connection, each sexual encounter is about that moment and the people there. The context or the definition of the relationship certainly never risks demeaning it, and whether an aromantic person has gone to bed with zero people or a thousand, it really shouldn’t matter. No relationship should ever – or could ever truly – be devalued by the number of past sexual partners a person has.
The essential element, of course, is always communication. It would be deeply upsetting if people got into a relationship expecting different things. People tend to take a lazy and selfish approach to this, and that absolutely includes people in monogamous romantic relationships. The fact is that after a few jokes at how much of the bisexual stereotype I am, I’ll listen to endless complaints with occasional weeping from my friends in long-term relationships about how they are being taken for granted. Communicating and respecting any and all partners involved is always essential but it also shows that there is no ideal relationship. Life is just about what works for you and whether that’s being alone, with many people, in relationships for the short-term or long term, as long as you’re happy and doing what feels right for you, the rest is just moralising bullshit.
Communicating and respecting any and all partners involved is always essential but it also shows that there is no ideal relationship.
Some people just don’t want, need or can experience the mono romantic story that was sold to us in every kind of media we grew up with. Generally people are recognising that relationships are shifting. Fewer people are getting married as more marriages are ending in divorce. There has been a rise in cohabiting couples – but whether that’s by choice or by extortionate rents is a topic up for debate. More young people than since the Ancient Greeks are open to exploring same gender relationships.
I can live with the comments and the questioning because hell, I had to do a lot of questioning myself about what exactly I wanted. I know that I live by what is right for me. There are plenty of people in my life who never took that period of reflection and jumped into relationships they ultimately found disrespectful and unsatisfying. There’s nothing wrong with that. We shouldn’t be aiming for marriage at the first shot – if at all – but I’m incredibly grateful that being LGBTQ+ did at least make me examine who I was and what I want. I come from a solid base now with everything I do. I trust in the foundations with which I’ve built my life upon. Hopefully, bisexual and aromatic identities will stop being seen as something scandalous and indulgent; the stigma really does put lives in danger, but I’ve never been happier with myself.
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