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running.tally

Defining Aromantic and the Difference Between Official and Personal Definitions

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A long title, but it's something we were chatting about in the Arocalypse Discord that I wanted to share.

 

When we (aros) explain the term "aromantic" to someone we often want to give them a short and accessible definition that is "good enough." Of course, defining aromanticism is complex because it overlaps with other terms we have (like "aro" and "arospec") and there are a lot of relationships within the community that are very tense right now. So, what I'm not asking is to define the best umbrella term for aromantics, because that's a separate discussion that we're not ready to have, but what I do want to know is how people feel about the current "official" or layperson-facing definition(s) of aromantic.

 

Aromantic is often defined as experiencing little to no romantic attraction nowadays (as is the Merriam-Webster definition in the dictionary), but there are some identities under the aro umbrella that aren't captured by "little to no attraction." These identities might be covered under the "little" part of the definition sometimes, because even when people experience romantic attraction, their decision to engage or not engage in romance and romantic relationships makes their experience of romance "little" comparatively. But, the definition isn't perfect. For many aros, their being aro is dependent on factors other than attraction.

 

Right now, this tentative definition is going around a few of us and I'm curious about what you think of using it for a quick but representative definition of aromantic.

 

Quote

Aromantic: describes a person who experiences little to no romantic attraction or whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations of romantic intimacy

 

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I do like the new suggested definition. Idk, the "usual" definition tends not to bother me because 1 - I'm obviously biased towards it, as it works for me personally, and 2 - most non-aro people seem to understand it. My understanding is that the average alloromantic/zedromantic is experiencing romantic attraction frequently, with a variety of people over the course of their lives, and with a certain level of intensity, and having a definition that is basically "none of that, or only a small part of it" seems to cover most points in surface-level conversations. 

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I don't really understand what's wrong with the actual definition ? I'm not familiar with all this debates, and except maybe lithroromantic, I don't see what arospec term don't fit into it? Can you elaborate, please? 

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1 hour ago, nonmerci said:

I don't really understand what's wrong with the actual definition ? I'm not familiar with all this debates, and except maybe lithroromantic, I don't see what arospec term don't fit into it? Can you elaborate, please? 

examples where attraction isn't the defining part include: acoromantic (person whose negative experiences with romance have alienated them from their alloromanticism), antiromantic (person who would prefer not to develop romantic feelings for people, but does), apathromantic (person who may or may not experience romantic attraction, but is indifferent to receiving it or acting on it)

 

@Coyote did this survey on their pillowfort that shows ~64% of arospecs marked attraction as the factor for labelling their romo orientation, ~44% also said ambiguity is a factor, and frequency was marked by ~38%. Non-zero people also marked "I don't label it", "Gender", "Desire", "Preference", "Community" and "Other" (eta: forgot the link https://www.pillowfort.social/posts/702982)

 

there isn't necessary anything wrong with the "little to no attraction" definition, it just doesn't reflect the whole picture

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Aromantic: describes a person who experiences little to no romantic attraction or whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations of romantic intimacy

 

hm. "Disconnected from normative societal expectations" is something that strikes me as maybe overbroad, since arguably that could apply to people who are gay/bi/pan in a romantic way, but I think it's a good start. If it were me, I might put that one up front and then add some subordinate clauses with examples, ex. --

 

Aromantic: a person whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations, for example due to experiencing little to no romantic attraction, feeling repulsed by romance, or being uninterested in romantic relationships.

 

2 hours ago, nonmerci said:

I don't really understand what's wrong with the actual definition ?

9 hours ago, aro-fae said:

and having a definition that is basically "none of that, or only a small part of it" seems to cover most points in surface-level conversations. 

 

Presumably @running.tally is also interested in non-surface conversations. Part of why this is an issue is because of identity policing, questioning people, and folks who don't exactly fit this one singular narrative -- as James argues,  asserting that someone can’t be aromantic (and instead has to identify as something else) because they “experience” any amount/type/frequency of “romantic attraction”... is identity policing. And, granted, no definition can prevent that. But certainly a very narrow and precise definition lends itself to that easier. And... unfortunately, getting hung up on levels of attraction does seem like something that's been going around, if I'm not mistaken. These questions matter for discussions and relationships within any given community, not for just the cursory introduction. Although even the cursory introduction can also shape whether or not someone feels emboldened enough to look further.

 

Anyway, I'm a bit unclear on something else here--

 

2 hours ago, nonmerci said:

I don't see what arospec term don't fit into it?

 

15 hours ago, running.tally said:

there are some identities under the aro umbrella that aren't captured by "little to no attraction."

 

Are y'all talking about the word "aromantic," or are y'all talking about the concept of "the aromantic umbrella"?

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1 hour ago, bydontost said:

 

3 minutes ago, Coyote said:

Are y'all talking about the word "aromantic," or are y'all talking about the concept of "the aromantic umbrella"?

I thought aromantic as "someone who fits in the aromantic spectrum"

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People "whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations of romantic intimacy" need another term.

 

To use the atheist comparison, people " whose experience of the divine is disconnected from normative societal expectations of religion" are not called atheists. They can be gnostics, New Agers, Satanists, neopagans. Even for a traditionalist Christian, they are all "infidels" or "heathens", but not atheists.

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2 hours ago, Coyote said:

Aromantic: a person whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations, for example due to experiencing little to no romantic attraction, feeling repulsed by romance, or being uninterested in romantic relationships.

cool, I like this mostly, maybe just note that still the part about attraction is most common - "commonly due to experiencing little to no romantic attraction, but also due to ..."

 

2 hours ago, Coyote said:

identity policing. And, granted, no definition can prevent that. But certainly a very narrow and precise definition lends itself to that easier

yep

 

2 hours ago, Coyote said:

Are y'all talking about the word "aromantic," or are y'all talking about the concept of "the aromantic umbrella

we're talking about the use that is interchangeable with the word arospec, as used in for example "aromantic community" 

 

25 minutes ago, Spacenik86 said:

People "whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations of romantic intimacy" need another term.

theyre already here; and what purpose would that serve besides 

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23 hours ago, running.tally said:

So, what I'm not asking is to define the best umbrella term for aromantics, because that's a separate discussion that we're not ready to have, but what I do want to know is how people feel about the current "official" or layperson-facing definition(s) of aromantic. 

It refers to romantic attraction, which is difficult to grasp.

I believe that there is something like romantic attraction, but if it were definitely proven that it doesn’t exist, I would still feel aromantic.

Quote

Aromantic: describes a person who experiences little to no romantic attraction or whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations of romantic intimacy 

Bu the disconnection happens to occur in a specific sense, namely “the full romantic program is not executed”, not in some other way which doesn’t fit the normative societal expectations. This is what all arospec orientations like grayromantic, akoiromantic, frayromantic, etc. seem to have in common: romance = lacking / absent / less pronounced / incomplete

(no other way to put it … that sounds very normative).

5 hours ago, Spacenik86 said:

They can be gnostics, New Agers, Satanists, neopagans. Even for a traditionalist Christian, they are all "infidels" or "heathens", but not atheists. 

It’s even called theistic Satanism, to differentiate it from the LaVey version of Satanism, which is atheistic.

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10 hours ago, nonmerci said:

I thought aromantic as "someone who fits in the aromantic spectrum"

 

7 hours ago, bydontost said:

we're talking about the use that is interchangeable with the word arospec, as used in for example "aromantic community" 

 

Well, color me confused then. I wouldn't have expected that. When someone talks about "defining aromantic," I'd always assume that they mean defining aromantic itself, as in for people whose primary identity label is "aromantic" point blank. If what they mean is the aromantic umbrella/spectrum, then I expect them to say "aromantic umbrella" or "aromantic spectrum" (or "arospec," if they're from Tumblr and/or on a mobile device). I also know that I'm not the only one who finds using "aromantic" and "arospec" interchangeably to be confusing. I also suspect that using specific terms as umbrella terms may be a part of the reason for the rise of the (icky) term "endcase aros," which is... unfortunately linear in its implications. Especially given that I've only ever seen it defined purely in terms of the zero attraction thing. This would be a type of that "pushing into grayness" issue that James mentioned.

 

And jury's out on my relationship to the aro umbrella, but if somebody were to refer to me personally as "aromantic," I would be annoyed.

 

(But anyway: thank you for clarifying.)

 

If the task is for defining the whole aromantic umbrella as a concept, not aromantic-just-aromantic, then I would not have suggested quite the same wording. For that, I think it would make sense to take a page from the Carnival of Aros FAQ written by @sennkestra -- wording like a) "anyone who personally relates to some aspect of aromanticism," or b) aromantics + "those who may identify with identities sometimes considered 'adjacent' to aromanticism." Either of those seems like a decent starting point to me, if only just because of their breadth/comprehensiveness while also sticking to the specific topic of aromanticism.

 

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9 hours ago, DeltaV said:

the disconnection happens to occur in a specific sense, namely “the full romantic program is not executed”, not in some other way which doesn’t fit the normative societal expectations. This is what all arospec orientations like grayromantic, akoiromantic, frayromantic, etc. seem to have in common: romance = lacking / absent / less pronounced / incomplete

(no other way to put it … that sounds very normative).

 

I think it's a very good definition. Perhaps the aromantic spectrum would be like the concept of non-believer, which embraces things like agnosticism, atheism and religious indifference.

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6 hours ago, Coyote said:

If what they mean is the aromantic umbrella/spectrum, then I expect them to say "aromantic umbrella" or "aromantic spectrum" (or "arospec," if they're from Tumblr and/or on a mobile device).

I think I'm not the only one who says I'm aro even if I'm arospec, to simplify,  in particular when I speak to allo, or when it is not useful to be more specific. As people insist that aromanticism is a spectrum, I always assume that we speak of the whole spectrum, except if there is a reason to not believe so.

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14 hours ago, Coyote said:

When someone talks about "defining aromantic," I'd always assume that they mean defining aromantic itself, as in for people whose primary identity label is "aromantic" point blank.

Oh, this is what @running.tally meant. Or rather, defining the word "aromantic"...?? Which can be used to say "I'm aromantic" - about identity, "aromantic community" - which is strictly speaking "aromantic spectrum community" (unless there's a lot of communities that don't include anyone who doesn't identify as only aromantic..??), "i'm aromantic (because it's easier to say, i identify with both aromanticism and cupiormanticism, but am romance repulsed and they asked how come my qpp isn't my romantic partner)".

 

18 hours ago, Coyote said:

I also suspect that using specific terms as umbrella terms may be a part of the reason for the rise of the (icky) term "endcase aros," which is... unfortunately linear in its implications.

Yeah it definitely is the reason for the fact a term "endcase aro" came into existence, but how do you wish to proceed...?? People hear "aromantic" and think a person is not interested in romance, doesn't feel attraction, assumptions are made; this person chafes at the assumptions, says they feel unwelcome in the community. We have either the option to expand the definition of what aromanticism can be, so that people who may feel attraction and/or have a nonnormative experience of romance, in which case it does become synonymous to aromantic spectrum definition or we can say "aromantic is 0 attraction" but this would be untrue...??

 

12 hours ago, nonmerci said:

I think I'm not the only one who says I'm aro even if I'm arospec, to simplify,  in particular when I speak to allo, or when it is not useful to be more specific. As people insist that aromanticism is a spectrum, I always assume that we speak of the whole spectrum, except if there is a reason to not believe so. 

And like @nonmerci said, sometimes the words are being used because they're convenient, not because they capture the essence of the being of a person. My goal would be to provide a definition of aromanticism that leaves room for interpretation too, so that it's harder to make assumptions.

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What I meant by this discussion is defining the concept of aromantic to people who have no idea being "non-romantic" in some way, shape, or form is even possible. There's the aromantic that's a specific orientation (the end-case aro who never feels romantic attraction for example) and the aromantic umbrella (or arospec umbrella). Like how the concept of bisexuality for instance is based on the concept of "bi": two/many/more than one.

I really like what you said, @DeltaV

Quote

“the full romantic program is not executed”, not in some other way which doesn’t fit the normative societal expectations. This is what all arospec orientations like grayromantic, akoiromantic, frayromantic, etc. seem to have in common: romance = lacking / absent / less pronounced / incomplete

I'm basically looking for a definition that covers what aro people all have in common (i.e., the "a"-romantic). What's encompassed in the "a?" Because it's not just "a"-romantic attraction, but also "a"-romantic behaviour and other stuff as mentioned in this thread. Essentially "a"-whatever romance stands for for that person.

 

Hope that clears things up. :) 

 

@Coyote I like the definition edit you proposed:

Quote

Aromantic: a person whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations, for example due to experiencing little to no romantic attraction, feeling repulsed by romance, or being uninterested in romantic relationships.

and also @bydontost's edit.

 

A potential definition to capture what's been said, without alienating end-case aros or other aros on the aro spectrum:

aromantic: describes a person whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations, commonly due to experiencing little to no romantic attraction, but also due to feeling repulsed by romance, or being uninterested in romantic relationships

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1 hour ago, running.tally said:

What's encompassed in the "a?" Because it's not just "a"-romantic attraction, but also "a"-romantic behaviour and other stuff as mentioned in this thread.

Saying like this, I finally understand why anti-romantic person can be considered aro and not allo even if they feel romantic attraction. Thanks.

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5 hours ago, bydontost said:

Yeah it definitely is the reason for the fact a term "endcase aro" came into existence, but how do you wish to proceed...?? People hear "aromantic" and think a person is not interested in romance, doesn't feel attraction, assumptions are made; this person chafes at the assumptions, says they feel unwelcome in the community. We have either the option to expand the definition of what aromanticism can be, so that people who may feel attraction and/or have a nonnormative experience of romance, in which case it does become synonymous to aromantic spectrum definition or we can say "aromantic is 0 attraction" but this would be untrue...??

 

Well, how I... wish to proceed, I guess, would start off by ruling out either of those options. I don't support a definition of aromanticism that tells some aromantics they're not actually aromantic, and I also don't support an overzealously-extensive definition of aromanticism that tells people they're aromantic even if they don't want to be called that. @sennkestra recently made a related blogpost about "positive" identity policing, telling questioning people what they "actually" are in a way that's clearly well-meaning but still prescriptivist -- you can read the post and the comment section below for how people feel about that. The way around that dilemma, from my POV, involves making a generalization that borders on tautology and then listing some examples of the different reasons that people identify with the label, without implying any one-to-one formula.

 

4 hours ago, running.tally said:

(the end-case aro who never feels romantic attraction for example) [...] without alienating end-case aros

 

So uh, this would be an example of saying the thing I just said I think it's detrimental when people say.

 

4 hours ago, running.tally said:

(or arospec umbrella)

 

o.O

 

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@Coyote Apologies about using "end-case aro!" I should let you know I sometimes have trouble with words, so don't necessarily take everything I say completely literally. That's why I post these kinds of definition things here - I use words when speaking/typing that are close enough to what I want to say but those words aren't necessarily exactly what I'm looking for. By end-case aro I just mean to distinguish aromantics in a way that won't make our current conversation about the definition of "aromantic" confusing, since aromantic can stand for an aromantic at the end of the aro spectrum or for the whole concept of aromanticism or as a synonym for the aro umbrella (thus my "arospec umbrella" in brackets). It's difficult to separate this conversation out without being confusing, but hopefully this clarifies things a bit. :) What I'm after defining in this thread is that middle item.

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I actually just made a post about this whole situation in the aromantic discussions page half an hour ago before going through the forums 😂

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Probably should’ve posted what I was talking about but here:

 

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On 6/21/2019 at 1:44 AM, running.tally said:

By end-case aro I just mean to distinguish aromantics in a way that won't make our current conversation about the definition of "aromantic" confusing, since aromantic can stand for an aromantic at the end of the aro spectrum or for the whole concept of aromanticism or as a synonym for the aro umbrella (thus my "arospec umbrella" in brackets). It's difficult to separate this conversation out without being confusing, but hopefully this clarifies things a bit. :) What I'm after defining in this thread is that middle item.

 

Okay, something it sounds like is coming up here, then:

 

Does it make sense to use "aromantic"* as an umbrella term that includes people who do not call themselves specifically "aromantic"?

 

*itself, as contrasted with "aromantic spectrum" or "aromantic umbrella" -- or in other words, to treat "aromantic" and "aromantic umbrella" as synonymous

 

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Things hinge on what you understand "romantic feeling", "romantic desire" and "romantic attraction" to mean. Something which can be tricky with abstract concepts.
The way I see is that romance is desire and motivation to form a quite specific type of interpersonal relationship. Which is described by ideas such as the relationship escalator and the definition of amantonormativity.

Since "aromantic" is a definition of exclusion aromantic people are quite diverse in terms of the interpersonal relationships they seek/desire.

 

On 6/19/2019 at 3:24 PM, Coyote said:

"Disconnected from normative societal expectations" is something that strikes me as maybe overbroad, since arguably that could apply to people who are gay/bi/pan in a romantic way, but I think it's a good start. If it were me, I might put that one up front and then add some subordinate clauses with examples, ex. --

I was more thinking of polyamoury, allos who avoid doing things like co-habiting (even if monogamous) and other relationships which are both romantic and non-normative.
It even seems applicable to allo aces.

Definitely overbroad in terms of scope.

 

On 6/19/2019 at 5:19 PM, Spacenik86 said:

People "whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations of romantic intimacy" need another term.

As well as working out how "romantic intimacy" relates to "romantic feeling", "romantic desire" and "romantic attraction".

 

On 6/19/2019 at 5:19 PM, Spacenik86 said:

To use the atheist comparison, people " whose experience of the divine is disconnected from normative societal expectations of religion" are not called atheists. They can be gnostics, New Agers, Satanists, neopagans. Even for a traditionalist Christian, they are all "infidels" or "heathens", but not atheists.

That's a great analogy.

 

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I didn't use to think that aromanticism needed a more thorough definition than the current but recently I've been thinking that maybe just talking about romantic attraction is too limited. Since attraction is such a hard term to define so perhaps the definition should be more related to love than attraction.

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19 hours ago, Holmbo said:

I didn't use to think that aromanticism needed a more thorough definition than the current but recently I've been thinking that maybe just talking about romantic attraction is too limited. Since attraction is such a hard term to define so perhaps the definition should be more related to love than attraction.

The idea is that it’s a “split attraction model” so talking about attraction is ideal. I will say that I often tell people that “I don’t fall in love” to explain my aromanticism since it’s easier for me and them than getting caught up on the concept of romantic attraction being separate from sexual attraction

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15 hours ago, Star Lion said:

The idea is that it’s a “split attraction model” so talking about attraction is ideal

 

"Split attraction model" as a term is a whole other can of worms, and it originated a decade after (not before) the term aromantic.

 

Anyway. Back to the aromantic vs. aromantic spectrum question, for those interested: Siggy recently wrote a post he titled "Aromantic" should not refer to the spectrum.

 

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That post by Siggy you linked, @Coyote, is an excellent post.

 

If I understand it right, Siggy is suggesting we drop "aromantic" as an umbrella for the spectrum in favor of other terms that have developed?

 

I guess that even though I said I didn't want to talk about umbrella terms in this thread, the issue of defining "aromantic" does seem to greatly hinge on how we define the aro umbrella and where/whether we include grayros and demiros and other aros who do experience romantic attraction (or who are quoiro, like yourself!). Some grayros I know, for example, don't identify with the aro spectrum while others greatly identify with it. I think Siggy also made this point. The spectrum (and points on it) isn't easily defined and can't be generalized.

 

It's hard to draw a line and have a definition of aromantic that won't confuse people, simply because different people define it differently. People are aromantic if they feel like aromantic experiences [of some kind] describe them somehow. That's why I was thinking about this and made this thread. People identify (or don't identify) with terms for a number of personal reasons and I want to be able to capture the definition diversity, at least in a "good enough" way. Sometimes drawing a prescriptive line can be extremely alienating. But on the other hand, being too inclusive of anything and everything can be argued against for being too wobbly a definition that escapes understanding at all.

 

The balance is hard to reach but some generalization is needed at this point in aro activism to just get non-aros to somewhat understand our experiences and support us. It's umbrella-crunching, as you've referred to it before, for sure. But many powerful allies simply won't care to hear about experience diversity - they can't be convinced that a simple generalizable definition isn't adequate, at least not right at the beginning when they are first learning of the term.

 

I think further conversations about the aro umbrella (and related terminology) is going on in this thread, in addition to other platforms like Pillowfort and other blogging avenues.

I'm not sure about bringing that conversation to this thread (unless it specifically addresses the aromantic definition(s)), but if others are interested in talking about these things, those are places to go. :) Either way, I'll be keeping an eye on those conversations.

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