When I first learned that some people identify as “aromantic,” I figured that perhaps they’d just never heard of deodorant. But, apparently, it’s not “aroma -ntic,,” it’s “a” as in not, “romantic” as in… romantic, and it’s a new LGBTQ+ “identity” and therefore we must take it very seriously. According to HuffPost, people who identify as “aromantic” (or “aro” for short) “don’t experience romantic attraction and generally aren’t interested in romantic relationships.” This is not to be confused with “asexual,” which is an “identity” for people who don’t feel sexual attraction. HuffPost says that “some people identify as both aromantic… and asexual” but “the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.”
Let’s break this down a little, just so we’re clear. People who identify as “aromantic” might feel sexual attraction toward someone, but will be incapable of engaging in a romantic relationship with them. So, ladies, that guy at the bar the other night who kept looking down your shirt while you were trying to talk to him about how adorable your cat is and suggested you take this “conversation” back to his place? Aromantic. Or that boyfriend you had in college who kept showing up at your dorm room wasted in the middle of the night and falling into bed with you but during the day only wanted to talk to you about sports cars? Aromantic. Which, of course, means, it’s no longer okay to throw your drink in his face, or kick him to the curb — he’s “aromantic,” it’s an “identity.” (You taking notes, jerk dude at the bar and wasted boyfriend?)
But, in all seriousness (okay, not all seriousness, but maybe, like, a little bit more seriousness, but probably not) people who aren’t just trying to find a no-strings-attached sexual partner really identify as aromantic. Kelsey Lee, director of social media for The Asexual Visibility and Education Network says, “Many aromantic people are mocked as losers, people that can’t get a date, or haven’t met the right person yet, but that’s not the case. Aromanticism is a valid orientation, not something to be cured or shrugged off.”
Kotaline Jones is an aromantic. She told HuffPost, “I just don’t really have a drive to pursue a relationship with another person or even imagine a future relationship.” Jenny (who didn’t provide a last name for privacy reasons) says, “I don’t want romantic relationships, but personally, I do still want a committed relationship, specifically a queer/quasi-platonic relationship.” (For all you unenlightened people out there, a QPR is “defined by it’s [sic] lack of ‘traditional’ romantic expectations, and can involve as many or as few sexual or romantically coded activities as the partners choose, depending on what they’re comfortable with.” Well that cleared that up.) Milly (who also withheld her last name) says, “Aros can have partners, though not every aro wants one.”
But, here’s the problem: romantic and sexual connection is part of being a healthy human being. Anthropologist Helen Fisher of Rutgers University says romantic love is “an essential part of humanity.” As a drive, Fisher says it’s even stronger than sexual desire. This, necessarily, means that people who don’t feel romantic attraction to anyone are suffering from some sort of deficiency that could potentially be cured. What does it mean, then, when people start embracing “identities” that are actually mental conditions or unhealthy lifestyles?
Think about the “body positivity” movement, which embraces obesity as a positive way of life. Telling people that their obesity is to be celebrated — and shaming anyone who tries to suggest otherwise — puts people at risk of continuing to engage in behaviors that have been proven to lead to, among other things, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and stroke. Similarly, celebrating “aromanticism” as an “identity” and encouraging people to embrace it as a lifestyle denies people of the basic human need of romantic connection, when clearly there is something very wrong, psychologically, that ought to be addressed (so the person can potentially live a happy and fulfilled life).
Milly says that when she realized she was aromantic, she “broke down and cried.” She says the “promise of a future with true love and marriage and a fairy tale ending was suddenly gone, even though I still wanted it.” Is choosing to “identify” as something she wished she didn’t have to be really preferable to finding out why she lacks this basic human drive and, perhaps, discovering a way to fall in love? I wouldn’t think so. But then, I’m not aromantic, so maybe I’m just being insensitive.