When Romance is Not an Option
I was having a hard time deciding where to start, so I thought I’d just do this alphabetically. ^^ I personally am between pan and aro when it comes to romantic orientation. I don’t claim to understand everything about either, and my experiences will vary widely from other aromantics.
not experiencing romantic attraction.
Aromanticism is not:
a personal choice or lack of emotional connection.
Definition (From AVEN Wiki): An aromantic is a person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others. Where romantic people have an emotional need to be with another person in a romantic relationship, aromantics are often satisfied with friendships and other non-romantic relationships. What distinguishes romantic relationships from a non-romantic relationships can vary diversely, but often includes physical connection (holding hands, cuddling, etc.) (Italics mine).The aromantic attribute is usually considered to be innate and not a personal choice, just as the lack of sexual attraction is innate to asexuals. It is important to note that aromantics do not lack emotional/personal connection, but simply have no instinctual need to develop connections of a romantic nature. Aromantics can have needs for just as much empathetic support as romantics, but these needs can be fulfilled in a platonic way.
It is possible for an aromantic individual to be involved in, and enjoy, a devoted relationship with another person, but these relations are often closer friendships, naturally reflecting the closeness of the two individuals and not a purposely initiated monogamous separation as is often found in romantic couples. Aromantics may experience squishes which are the aromantic or platonic equivalent of a romantic crush. When an aromatic get’s into a relationship that’s more than friends – but less than romantic – that is known as a queerplatonic relationship.
Like all romantic identities aromatics can be of any sexual orientation.
Writing the Aromantic Character
The first thing to remember when writing an aromantic character is that being aromantic does not mean incapable of love, affection or sexual intimacy. It simply means they do not experience romantic attraction. They have friends and other relationships but not with a goal of a romance. (http://www.buzzfeed.com/mcrosswell/5-myths-about-aromanticism-tysc#.lvwnEXPxq)
Romantic Orientation – Describes an individual’s pattern of romantic attraction based on a person’s gender(s) regardless of one’s sexual orientation. For individuals who experience sexual attraction, their sexual orientation and romantic orientation are often in alignment (i.e. they experience sexual attraction toward individuals of the same gender(s) as the individuals they are interested in forming romantic relationships with). (AVEN Wiki).
As when writing any character, you need to ask yourself several questions:
- Have I given them other meaningful, close relationships?
- Have I fallen into the stereotype of the aromantic asexual as an unfeeling, friendless, virginal robot who hates everyone? Not all aromantic people are asexual.
- Do I fully understand what it means to be aromantic? Is this my story to tell?
- Have I tried to ‘fix’ the character’s or tried to show them suddenly being romantic when they find the ‘right’ person?
- What are my reasons for having this character be aromantic? Have I made them a whole person or is their orientation their primary characteristic? Am I trying to fill a perceived quota?
- Have I made the character aromantic due to mental illness, trauma, personal failing or some outside factor? If so, why and how does it serve the plot?
- Have I made this character’s orientation the comedic relief?
Now some questions for your aromantic character:
- Do they realize they are aromantic? How do they feel about this? Do they wish they were ‘normal’ or are they content with their orientation? Do they try to force themselves into romantic relationships? What are the consequences?
- When did they discover their orientation? Was it a gradual understanding that took years. Are they still a teen and trying to come to grips with how different they might seem from all their peers?
- Who else knows about their orientation or have they told anyone? If so, who and why or why not? How did those they told react? How did they handle this reaction?
- How has their orientation affected their other relationships?
- Do they want a close platonic or even sexual relationship?
- Does their orientation intersect with other things such as gender identity, race, physical disability, mental illness, or other factors? How do they handle this intersectionality?
Once you’ve addressed these questions, it is important to remember that you are writing a person. A whole person not just an orientation. While a person’s orientation is integral to who they are and defines them up to a point it shouldn’t be the sole basis for their personality. This can lead to falling into the trope trap. While tropes themselves are not bad some can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Aromantics are seldom, if ever, seen in media so there are very few tropes about them, though many of the asexual tropes can apply as well.
Don’t shy away from writing them just because they are rare. They are part of the spectrum and need to be favorably represented so that other aromantics can read their stories and see that they are not broken, ‘messed up,’ or ‘weird.’ They are normal people who just happen to not be interested in romance. This might feel like a challenge at first and if you are romantically inclined it might be difficult to comprehend. It’s okay. Their story might not be yours to write and that’s fine. But don’t let that scare you off from including their orientation in your stories. If anything the research can help you, as it has me, come to a better understanding of others and to have greater empathy.
Here are some more references I found helpful that I’d like to share with you:
ASK AN AROMANTIC (if asking questions please remember to be courteous and not assume things)
Please share your thoughts with me. Were you aware of the aromantic orientation? Have you met an aromantic person? Would you consider including one in a story? What challenges do you think aromantics face in our society? How might this affect their portrayal in media? Do you know of any canon aromantic characters in a book, movie or game?
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