Some people don’t experience romantic attraction, but that doesn’t mean that they’re lonely or don’t experience intimacy.
As the asexual community becomes more visible, the idea that romantic attraction and sexual attraction are separate becomes more accepted. However, the idea that some people do not fall in love is not widely accepted. Aromanticism is a romantic orientation in which people do not feel romantic attraction towards anyone. Aromantics can be allosexual (experience sexual attraction) or on the asexual spectrum.
Unfortunately, even the asexual community ostracizes them. We shove them aside in an effort to break the stigma that asexual people can’t fall in love. It’s time we stopped hiding aromantic people from public view. They’re normal, healthy, and quite often happy—contrary to popular belief.
We put romantic love on a pedestal in western society. It’s the reason people shut out their friends when they get into new romantic relationships. We dedicated an entire holiday to romantic love—Valentine’s Day. We emphasize this kind of love through a whole film genre, build industries on it, commercialize it and nearly every mainstream song is about it. Our assumption is that everyone will “find someone someday,” when in reality that isn’t the case for everyone. Some people like life without a romantic partner. Some people are happy with a simple companion, or none at all.
Why do we consider our friends and families not good enough company? Many think the difference between romantic love and friendship is the presence of intimacy, but is that really the difference? Intimacy comes in many different forms. We live in a culture where building emotional intimacy with friends is perceived as a sign of budding romantic interest. Our culture has also deemed certain kinds of touch, like cuddling, only appropriate for romantic relationships. We should be asking ourselves why friends can’t cuddle, especially since hugs have some marvelous health benefits for the brain.
Even if someone has an aversion to all touch, coercing someone into touching is never okay. There is nothing wrong with having an aversion to touch, and those who loathe it should not be criticized. Intimacy is versatile and does not require touch to be legitimate. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone could be open and vulnerable with those they love, romantic or not? Building close friendships can foster a sense of community, and give us security in times of crisis.
While romantic love is beautiful, we need to realize that all love is equally beautiful. Aromantic people are not robots or sociopaths. They are not heartless either, they simply experience the world in a different way than romantically oriented people. We should look at their stories as valuable in deconstructing the toxic parts of our culture. They can teach us a lot about the significance that non-romantic love holds. Perhaps if we saw all love as valuable, our society wouldn’t be so broken.