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The History of Aromanticism


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As a person who really likes word origins, this is something that's bugged me for a long time. I've known for a while that the word "aromantic" as we use it today was primarily coined in ace spaces such as AVEN, and I started doing some digging. Prior to 2002, a search for aromantic brings up only cosmetics products. Unfortunately, some pages which were posted in the early 2000's but which were later edited skew results (such as people's AVEN profiles now updated that say aromantic), however it is safe to say that through 2004, if aromantic was a word it was still considered synonymous with asexuality to some degree, as there was a vote as to what should be used for nicknames for asexual people and "A" won (thus other "A" terms didn't exist, or were considered a part of another group) over the now-popular "Ace." (1)

The first remaining mention I found of what we would recognize as Split Attraction was in June 2005. According to the post, there were other mentions of it before this post, but they seem to have been lost to the ages. While there were earlier mentions of preferences in relationships, types of accepted touch, etc., this is the first time I could find a person calling themself Xromantic Xsexual (as well as some other labels that we no longer use in this way), albeit the model shown here is not the same one that we use now, having been exposed to less use and thus being, for lack of a better word, "clunkier" than our current model. However, seeing as this was the infant internet, and a lot of different words were being thrown around to see what worked and what didn't, this thread does have some definitions "mixed up," that is, they were probably the common sentiment of the time, but looking back from now we use similar words in very different ways.(2)

 

However, seeing as I am but a young person doing research on a time before I'd ever heard of any of this (seriously I was 6 in 2005...) it would be great to hear from anyone who knows more on the origins of this than I. It would be especially enlightening, I think, to hear from anyone who was around AVEN at the time, or who can confirm/deny some of my suppositions about the origins of aromanticism as a term in ace spaces. Or, if you can totally tear my argument apart because you know of aro groups that were meeting in the 90's, even better. I just want to learn about the past.

 

(1) http://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/5943-nicknames-for-asexuals/

(2) http://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/9433-relationship-definitions/

*when I say "didn't exist" I only mean that there was not a label for the experience. the people existed, the depth of language we now have did not.

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I think its really hard to track down aromanticism in history, as people used to define/see themselves and their non-cishetromance conforming orientations in a very different way. If you read queer themed literature from the 60s, 70s, 80s you will feel the difference.

 

When it came to terminology, the key element used to be behaviour and not how one felt, as these terms were often used by medical professionals who have seen the whole phenomenon from the outside (and wanted to "fix it"). Queer people inside the scene used slang to avoid outing themselves and because that was more accessible. Most people don't use the latin terminology when they talk about their own body or sexuality on the everyday basis. Gay or straight or else, they just are the way they are/allowed to be, pursue whatever relationships they are into. When something feels natural, its not that a big deal, most people will not analyse the way they eat dinner, or think about how they take a shower. Doctors and scientists do that, and they (cl)aim to be objective. The whole labeling and categorising was an outside thing, we started doing it because that way it felt a lot less like being lab rats in an experiment.

 

The performative aspect of aromanticism is not so obvious. Some were seen as unlucky in love, unable to settle down or keep a relationship. It quite easily goes unnoticed, especially in a culture that is prude enough to use the word love to describe sex.

 

Romantic love wasn't always such a key element in marriage and sex, that norm of being in love with the person you have sex with/marry is fairly new. A few hundred years old perhaps?

 

Around 2004-2005 ish, when I was coming out and exploring the not-straight world, people were still routinely asking queers if "homosexuals had feelings". Yes, as in "is homoromanticism a real thing". Of course, that terminology was not there yet, but cishet people still commonly believed that our orientation was a perversion, a fetish, and romantic love only existed between a man and a woman. Saying that you experienced homosexual desire without romantic love was like painting a target practice on you forehead. I had lots of questions and worries, but I did not really had a way or the courage to talk about them.

Queers were putting massive efforts into de-sexualising their identities. Anybody who was not part of the "love is love" and "team gay marriage" and "legalize love" etc. group was frowned upon and silenced quite quickly. It was everywhere.

 

 

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before aromantism the term "non-limerent" was there. limerence described romantic attraction so a non-limerent person was simple a person experience who had not experienced romantic attraction.

 

the term hold alot of simularities to aromantism. the term was published in love and limerence in 1979.

I am sure some cultures have had aromantism words before that but I think its hard to know since the reseash on the topic is very limited.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 12 July 2016 at 2:22 PM, Louis Hypo said:

I think looking at the history is great, but maybe on a level of separating romance and sex could we find another possible origin even if it describes sexual aromantics as sinful.

Are we talking about the terminology or the orientation itself? Finding the "origin" of the orientation will be impossible as people did not just randomly become non-straight at one point in history. If we base the whole theory on how the ratio of hetero and homosexuality is pretty much constant through out history regardless of culture and religion, we can assume that aroness was also the same. Anyway I don't think it was invented on AVEN in the past 10 years....xDespecially that I have memories of some pretty aro feelings from like 20 years ago.

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13 hours ago, Cassiopeia said:

Are we talking about the terminology or the orientation itself? Finding the "origin" of the orientation will be impossible as people did not just randomly become non-straight at one point in history. If we base the whole theory on how the ratio of hetero and homosexuality is pretty much constant through out history regardless of culture and religion, we can assume that aroness was also the same. Anyway I don't think it was invented on AVEN in the past 10 years....xDespecially that I have memories of some pretty aro feelings from like 20 years ago.

IIRC terms meaning "heterosexual" have been part of popular culture for a shorter period of time than terms meaning some other sexual orientation.
The other complication with sexual orientation is that it is not a hetero/homo binary. `Something like heterosexual, polysexual, homosexual and asexual being a better model.
Something AVEN has done is to popularise the idea that romantic and sexual orientations are distinct things.Though it is commonly assumed that they go together.
It can be very difficult to describe how you feel to anyone else unless suitable (and popular) term exist. Saying "I'm not interested in ever getting married" twenty plus years might have been interpreted several ways. But none of them would be that you had an aromantic orientation. Even now aromantic erasure is commonplace.

On 12/07/2016 at 2:22 PM, Louis Hypo said:

I think looking at the history is great, but maybe on a level of separating romance and sex could we find another possible origin even if it describes sexual aromantics as sinful. Also the future of the awareness should be top priority!

Possibly a point in history before romance became so important and normative.
Though it's possible that at that time people would have used different paradigms for sexual orientations.

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