In the past day I’ve received two similar questions:
“Hi, I’m a panromantic demisexual. I’m personally curious—how would YOU personally define romantic attraction? I always thought that romantic attraction was the inclination to, say, getting butterflies and swooning when being around/thinking about one’s crush. By those standards I’d probably be hyperromantic. But I’ve heard of aromantics doing such things with regards to their squishes, and of course, aromantics desiring (queerplatonic) relationships. So how would you define it?”
“Still confused on the romantic attraction part. Does that mean something like wanting to be near a person, wanting to talk to them but not have any sort of physical relations with them? Something like wanting to be a super close friend and someone they would think of a lot?”
Both from anonymous.
First, I’d like to register my amusement that an aromantic is being asked to describe something they don’t feel, but nevertheless, I will do my best.
The first thing to consider is that for the majority of the population, sexual and romantic attractions work in tandem. The reason that sexual attraction has not been talked about indepth before the advent of the asexual community on a widespread scale is because sexuals never had cause to separate it from their other attractions. Everyone’s attractions are rather like a bowl of liquid that for the most part, all looks the same, smells the same, tastes the same, they just react in different ways to stimulus. And one single attraction will rarely work on it’s own - it will almost always work with at least one other attraction. Thus, the separate attractions only become apparent once a person lacks it, to shed light onto the divide between it and the others.
However, luckily enough, society does have a few words that describe a disparity in sexual and romantic attraction that can give you a bit of a look at what makes up each attraction: “fuck buddy”, “one night stand”, “friends with benefits”, etc.
The reverse is less common, and so includes newer words like, “bromance”, “soul sister” - but even then, these two words are also often used in platonic contexts, and actually it’s more common to find them with platonic contexts.
But does this tell us what romantic attraction is? Well, no, it’s just something interesting to think about.
So what the heck is romantic attraction? I have no idea. I can describe it with metaphors all day however: “a roller coaster of ecstasy and soap opera”, “true love should age like wine, growing in subtle intensity”, “tend it and watch it blossom; then let it nourish you and its fruits revive your soul”, “every part of life bursts aflame with color and light and energy and presence”, etc. I could probably, with even a modicum of credibility, say that half of the world’s books have been written about romance.
Sickly sweet, bitter sweet, breath-takingly sweet, sweet as sugar, hot as the sun, crackles like fire … we humans spend a lot of time talking about romantic love.
In the end, this tells us a whole lot of nothing. So let’s look at Wikipedia - they never let us down, right?
“Romantic love is a relative term, but generally accepted as a definition that distinguishes moments and situations within interpersonal relationships to an individual as contributing to a significant relationship connection.”
(I’m also amused that a second stipulation Wikipedia states is this: “The addition of drama to relationships of love.”)
So this doesn’t really help us. Even the bloody philosophers don’t know! And what do we know about romantic attraction? It’s something that some people feel, and others do not; it’s something that some people feel with more frequency, intensity or under less pre-requisites than other people; and finally, it is a finite phenomenon - it happens, we know it happens, it definitely happens.
And even personal descriptions aren’t much use. One person who describes romantic attraction as inciting them to jealousy, a possessive nature and pure monogamous exclusivity is in direct conflict with a polyamorous romantic who has an open relationship with several people.
So, I don’t know guys. Unlike with sexual attraction, I have never once heard a good, general description of romantic attraction, and unlike with sexual attraction, there are billions and billions of descriptions out there. Trust me, pick up a romance novel, and you’ll find five on the first page.
I’m going to settle with the answer I’ve always gone with when considering such questions as, “what is romantic attraction?” and “am I in love?” … it’s different for everybody, you’ll know it if it happens, and I know intuitively that I don’t feel romantic attraction for some reason that is unfathomable to me.
I have felt such intense platonic love for someone that I thought I was in love with them - but somehow I now know it wasn’t. Hindsight 20/20 and all that.
If you have a better answer than me, please, please submit it. I’m just somebody who doesn’t feel romantic attraction.
Feel free to submit anything you wish to see published on this blog here.
If you have any questions, you may ask them here.
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