In a world where everyone is more or less expected to desire sex and romance, the idea that one could be asexual or aromantic may seem rather odd. But asexual and aromantic people do exist — in fact, a whole spectrum of orientations and identities fall under the ace and aro umbrellas.
Here, we take a look at one such identity: “arosexual.”
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Arosexual is a relatively new term that has only come up in recent years. The official arosexual definition is up for debate, as there are several interpretations of the word.
Some sources say that arosexual is a term that describes people who view sexual attraction and romantic attraction as mutually exclusive. In other words, they can only experience one or the other for each object of affection or potential partner. You may only feel sexually attracted to one partner but never romantically attracted to them and vice versa for another partner.
However, others believe that the term arosexual is a misnomer for aromantic asexual or aroace — an orientation that can be described as having no desire for or interest in both sexual or romantic experiences.
Asexual? Aromantic? What Do These Words Mean?
If all these words sound new to you, don’t worry. Here, we break down some of the concepts related to asexuality, aromanticism, and arosexuality.
The Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN) describes an asexual person as someone who “does not experience sexual attraction”.
Asexuality is distinct from celibacy in that asexual people do not choose to abstain from sex. In that sense, asexuality is as much a sexual orientation as is being gay or lesbian. It is not something you can turn on or off.
It’s important to note that the asexual experience varies from person to person. Asexuality is a spectrum where people can identify between asexual and allosexual – the latter defined as people who experience sexual attraction.
Those who fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum can identify with several different identities, including:
- Gray-asexual: Also called “graysexual” or “gray ace”, gray-asexual people are those who may experience sexual attraction to a limited extent.
- Demisexual: These are people who do experience sexual attraction but only after forming a strong emotional bond with another person.
- Aceflux: These are people who may fluctuate from asexual to sexual. Much like genderfluid people do not have a definite gender identity, aceflux people may find that their sexual attraction changes over time.
- Reciprosexual: These people can only be sexually attracted to people who reciprocate their feelings.
- Akoisexual: These people experience sexual attraction to others but do not wish for their attraction to be reciprocated. Once their feelings are reciprocated, they may feel that their attraction fades away.
AVEN describes “aromantic” as people who are “not romantically attracted to or desiring of romantic relationships at all”.
Many people in the asexual community believe that sexual orientation differs from romantic orientation (to who you are romantically attracted). This is essentially the basis for the split attraction model, a theory that many in the ace and aro communities use to better explain their sexual orientations.
The split attraction model states that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are independent aspects of one’s orientation. Thus, people who identify as asexual do not necessarily identify as aromantic and vice versa. Asexual people can still develop romantic feelings and the desire to have romantic relationships with other people – they’re just not interested in the sexual aspect of being in a relationship. Or, in the case of gray ace and acespec people (i.e., people on the asexual spectrum), they can experience attraction and arousal to a certain extent and act upon those feelings in whatever way is most comfortable to them.
AVEN points out that romantic and sexual orientation differences are “by no means exclusive to asexual people”.
An aromantic asexual person or aroace is someone who experiences neither romantic nor sexual attraction to others. What does being aroace look like? Here are some signs:
- You experience little to no desire to enter sexual and romantic relationships with other people.
- You have never experienced falling in love and/or can’t relate to others when they talk about their experiences with dating, sex, and marriage.
- When someone flirts with you or asks you out, you feel neutral about it. Some aroace people may even feel repulsed by the idea of having sex, dating, or being in a relationship.
- You feel pressured to start having sex or seek out relationships because it is what is expected of you.
The Bottom Line
Arosexual is a relatively new term that is used to describe people who view sexual and romantic attraction as mutually exclusive. It is also sometimes used to refer to people who identify as both aromantic and asexual. The exact meaning of the word remains unclear, however.
If you are looking for a term to describe your experience with sexuality and romantic attraction or a lack thereof, there are other terms out there (some mentioned above) that may be more helpful in defining yourself.
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