We Need More Focus on Aromanticism

This month’s Carnival of Aros has the theme “Being aromantic in an allonormative world,” which got me thinking about some facts I discovered about aromantic representation compared to asexual representation when I was doing my honors thesis as a combined aro/ace project.

Hang around the community, and sooner or later you’ll notice people talk about how aromanticism is even further behind in awareness/acceptance than asexuality, even within the ace community sometimes.  Of course I believed it, but as someone who’s both aro and ace and has tended to see my ace identity as more meaningful because I have stronger feelings about sex than romance, and discovered I was ace first of the two, I can’t say I noticed it much in my own life.  But then I needed secondary sources for my thesis, and…wow, there is a clear gap in how much attention has been paid to each of them, that I hadn’t noticed before.

(To avoid confusion, I’m not arguing that asexuality has “too much” focus, so don’t take this to mean we should stop talking and writing about it as much – it needs more attention too. What I’m trying to highlight is how aromanticism needs even more attention.)

What’s out there for asexuality:

When I searched my library’s article databases for stuff on asexuality, it wasn’t hard to find stuff.  Certainly not the numbers that other subjects would have turned up, but enough resources to find what I wanted.

It’s quite recent that we have many nonfiction books on asexuality, but that’s changing since 2020.  Here’s a list of every one I’m aware of, with publication dates:

  1. 2012 – Asexuality: A Brief Introduction (Asexuality Archive)
  2. 2014 – The Invisible Orientation: An Intro to Asexuality (Julie Sondra Decker)
  3. 2015 – Ace & Proud: An Asexual Anthology (A.K. Andrews)
  4. 2017 – Asexual Perspectives: 47 Asexual Stories: LOVE, LIFE and SEX, ACElebration of ASEXUAL DIVERSITY (Sandra Bellamy)
  5. 2020 – Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex (Angela Chen)
  6. 2020 – How to Write Asexual Characters: An Incomplete Guide (Salt and Sage Books)
  7. 2020 – How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing of Asexual (Rebecca Burgess)
  8. March 2022 – A Quick and Easy Guide to Asexuality (Molly Muldoon)
  9. Sept. 2022 – Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens on our Sex-Obsessed Culture (Sherronda J. Brown)
  10. Dec. 2022 – Ace Voices: What It Means to Be Asexual, Aromantic, Demi or Grey Ace (Eris Young)
  11. Feb. 2023 – I Am Ace: Advice on Living Your Best Asexual Life (Cody Daigle-Orians)
  12. Feb. 2023 – Sounds Fake But Okay: An Asexual and Aromantic Perspective on Love, Relationships, Sex, and Pretty Much Anything Else (Kayla Kaszyca & Sarah Costello)
  13. March 2023 – Ace Notes: Tips and Tricks on Existing in an Allo World (Michele Kirichanskaya)
  14. April 2023 – ACE and ARO Journeys: A Guide to Embracing Your Asexual or Aromantic Identity (Ace and Aro Advocacy Project)
  15. I also know someone in the community who’s currently writing a book on demisexuality.

Now let’s look at aro resources:

Finding articles was…a challenge.  Just searching “aromanticism” without even specifying anything more specific turned up less than a page of results, and those that were relevant generally had aromanticism alongside asexuality – never as the primary focus on its own, like asexuality often was.  Always the sidekick, never a turn to be the hero despite deserving equal attention, so to speak.  It just didn’t look like people were researching aromanticism unless it was relevant to asexual people’s experiences, and even that wasn’t very often.  (With the obvious disclaimer that this was just MY university’s library, and would not catch literally every article out there or be an exact match for what other people might find at their libraries.)

And for books, ace books generally seem to mention aromanticism (I have not read them all, but I would be quite surprised by an ace book that completely failed to discuss the romantic counterpart that so often overlaps), but they’re not books primarily about aromanticism; they’re books about asexuality that also have some info on aromanticism.

Elizabeth Brake’s Minimizing Marriage: Marriage, Morality, and the Law (Studies in Feminist Philosophy) in 2012 should be mentioned, as it’s the origin of the word “amatonormativity” to my understanding, but I don’t know how much aromanticism specifically is a major topic in a way comparable to the other books here.

Which leaves this list of books that would readily be thought of as relevant if you were asked for books about being aromantic:

  1. 2018 – Aro Eros Arrows (Integrated Non-Monogamy), by Michon Neal
  2. Feb. 2023 – Sounds Fake But Okay: An Asexual and Aromantic Perspective on Love, Relationships, Sex, and Pretty Much Anything Else (Kayla Kaszyca & Sarah Costello)
  3. April 2023 – ACE and ARO Journeys: A Guide to Embracing Your Asexual or Aromantic Identity (Ace and Aro Advocacy Project)
  4. July 2023 – Hopeless Aromantic: An Affirmative Guide to Aromanticism (Samantha Rendle)
  5. And a book in progress by AUREA (Aromantic-spectrum Union for Recognition, Education, and Advocacy) (There’s a quote from one of my posts in it actually, or at least in a draft of it)

So, 5 books compared to 15, of which 2 aren’t even released yet and 2 more of the remaining 3 were just published this year.  If this is similar to the ace list, hopefully this is a sign we’ll see a few more popping up in the next few years?

And a little tangent on fiction while I’m here…

I’d also like to see more stories without romance, including ace stories.  I don’t have as firm numbers because there’s a lot more aspec fiction than nonfiction out there, but it seems to me like even a lot of ace stories are like “ace character trying to navigate romance while being ace,” and those are good stories to write and I’m glad people are, but personally, my aromantic self has zero interest in romance and doesn’t read a lot of the aspec rep that’s already there (despite sort of needing to because I’m also writing aspec stories and should be aware of what’s been done) because of that.  Can we also get more stories for my type of aro, pretty please?

Nice infodump. What am I supposed to do with this knowledge?

So overall, a tangible look at what people mean they say aromanticism is still left out compared to asexuality.  We still need more awareness, acceptance, and literature about both, but we especially need it for aromanticism.

And also now you have a reading list if you were looking for non fic books about either topic :).

If you know of any books that I’m missing here, feel free to let me know and I’ll add them to my list!  I try to catch everything but obviously I can’t be in every corner of the internet.

P.S. Another example my queerplatonic partner pointed out when he reviewed this:

There’s also the fact that when we went to pride last weekend, there were actually about as many ace flags as other non-rainbow ones (since the rainbow is obviously the go-to, so not a good baseline for comparison on its own), but in 7 hours at the parade and following festival at which there were apparently 175,000+ attendees over the day, besides my own I only saw ONE aro flag plus a demiaro flag.  (And yes, other-aro-flag-person and I went “oh my god, I love your flag” and pointed at each other like the Spiderman meme.)

5 thoughts on “We Need More Focus on Aromanticism”

  1. Yes! Having this checklist is really handy!
    I wonder if the lack of resources on aromanticism is because it’s so vaguely defined. It’s defined around “romantic attraction”, which as you may have seen on my blog, is really hard to define. Everyone seems to have a different understanding of it and it’s full of ambiguity and/or contradictions. I got very frustrated trying to define it. I feel like if anyone started writing a book trying to explain aromanticism, they would end up getting similarly frustrated and give up lol. Anyways, I hope that changes. Because it is very necessary to try to create a more unified narrative around aromanticism.

    1. Thanks :).
      Do you think it’s vaguely defined even compared to asexuality? Because both spectra can have a lot of vaguely defined / open-ended terms I feel like, but given that sexual attraction tends to be more physical to my understanding (not that I have personal experience to know), whereas romantic attraction is relatively more in the emotional category with platonic and alterous attraction, limerance, etc., I could see how it being harder to disentangle would make it harder to get the kind of definition people would want for research, etc.

      1. Sorry I missed your response. I don’t always check my email, and I couldn’t get notifications on my WP. Anyways, yes, I do think aromanticism is more vaguely defined than asexuality. Even if “attraction” is a fuzzy concept, (so even if sexual attraction and romantic attraction are equally fuzzy), with asexuality, it’s still a lot more clear that typically aces are not into sex. But with aromanticism, aros, are not into what exactly? Romantic relationships? But then some aros want life partnerships or QPRs, and those are functionally similar if not the same to romantic relationships. I think that’s what makes it so difficult to define.

  2. Thank you for this helpful list of books! As a fellow aromantic (though a bisexual one) I’ve had a hard time finding any reading that focuses mainly on aromanticism. It’s so great to see that there actually is literature out there, even if some of it isn’t quite out yet.

    1. You’re welcome! I make lists for fun, lol.

      On the upside, by the time I’m writing this (I forgot comments aren’t all automatically approved and forgot to check my pending queue for a hot minute…), one of the two that was upcoming a month ago ought to be out now :).

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