Photo by TaniaSaiz
When explaining asexuality to friends, the greatest hurdle I usually face is conveying the disconnect between sexual and romantic attraction. Sexual romantics quickly accept that sexual attraction does not require romantic attraction; they’ve giggled over strangers passing store windows and ogled pictures of celebrities without wanting to date either. The trouble is in explaining that the inverse is true. Romantic asexuality exists, because romantic attraction occurs separate from sexual attraction. Eventually, the conversation leads to: if romantic asexual aren’t doing anything sexual with their partners, what do they do? (They never listen when I explain that asking the aromantic is not the best idea.)
But that’s far from the only misconception about sexuality and romance engrained in our culture. From the time we hear the tale of two true loves who kissed and “lived happily ever after,” we are taught that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are one in the same, that adults and their relationships don’t change, and that attraction is only experienced to one person at a time—if they’re the right person, all time. This is not how many people feel.
Romantic asexuality—hetero- homo- bi- pan- poly-romantic asexuality and others—is well within the human experience, but the romance our children see in media is all about ‘love at first sight’ and ‘true love’s first kiss.’ By the time we reach adulthood, almost nobody knows asexuality exists, and that can be dangerous. The idea that sex is needed for romantic relationships is so ingrained in my generation’s culture that this article, screencapped with a response declaring the sexual boyfriend ‘friend zoned,’ became a meme.
The refusal to acknowledge that people and their relationships change over time, especially in something as serious and long-term as marriage, also leads to people shaming divorce. Divorce happens, but unhappy people lie to themselves to avoid divorce happening to them. One of my uncles is his wife’s second husband. My aunt’s parents barely saw her between when she divorced and when her first husband died, because they did not want their neighbors to know she was divorce. When her first husband died, they promptly went around their neighborhood announcing that their daughter was a widow. Another aunt-uncle pair refuse to divorce, though they dislike each other and live in separate states.
Not everyone who experiences romantic attraction experiences sexual attraction. People who love each other at one point in their lives may not at another point. Can we show children more that represents that?