I got to thinking a little while ago about how we usually talk about asexuals having two distinct orientations (asexual, x-romantic). According to this way of thinking, asexuals then fall into two categories: romantic, and aromantic (with further categorization of the former according to gender preference, but those are the basics). I’ve always found this categorization system rather confusing, because it’s not clear at all what we mean by “romantic.” Romance means different things in different contexts, and in trying to apply this word to a new context, we get confused about which definition we’re trying to apply.
Obviously, it’s clear we’re not talking about styles of prose or poetry, nor does this have anything to do with the Romans. We all know we’re in the general ballpark of love, but beyond that, there are several different ways to interpret it.
If I were to hear someone called “romantic,” the first thing that would come to mind is a personality trait: I would imagine that person as someone with a very idealistic, fanciful outlook on love relationships, which calls to mind princes on white horses. I would think sappiness, naivete, and rescue complex. Red roses, starry skies, candlelit dinners. A person who likes all these things (which are anathema to me). From the context, I can eliminate this interpretation, because I know from my experience with the asexual community that that’s not what we’re referring to, but a person who doesn’t have that background with asexuality would likely be confused. It has always bothered me that the words we use to describe someone like me has this connotation as well, because I am much more of a realist when it comes to love affairs.
But in the context of asexuality, it’s fairly clear that’s not what we mean. According to the AVEN Lexicon, a romantic person is one who experiences romantic attraction (to whatever gender is specified). Okay, then. What’s romantic attraction? According to the wiki:
Romantic attraction is a feeling that causes people to desire a romantic relationship with a specific other person. …
What exactly constitutes a romantic relationship or romantic attraction is difficult to define, and some asexuals reject the romantic/aromantic dichotomy altogether.
See, we even outright acknowledge that it’s not well defined. It seems to me that there are two different components to this so-called “romantic attraction:” structure, and feeling. Continue reading