After all my talk of limerence and pansexuality, I’ve been thinking more about romance in relation to sexual orientation. Turns out the asexual community is all over this topic, employing the term “panromance” to describe the ability to have romantic feelings for all number of people, not dictated by the gender binary. Probably the greatest quote ever on this subject comes from Urban Dictionary, that gives an example of panromantic in a sentence:
“I don’t get it. Bretta is totally hot, and she’ll date anything, but she’s still a virgin.”
“That’s because she’s panromantic asexual”.
The term panromantic has been embraced by many self-identified asexuals, also known as “aces”. So what does being ace mean, and how does asexuality and panromance trouble our ordinary notions of the importance of sex in relationships? While Wikipedia defines asexuality as a non-orientation that entails having no interest in sexual activities, AVENwiki (a wiki made by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network) describes asexuality as a particular kind of orientation, distinct from practices of abstinence, celibacy, etc. While asexuality is often described in terms of lacking (lack of sexual interest, etc), the ace community reminds us that they are still interested in having meaningful human relationships and deep romances.
However (as usual) there are some people that insist that asexuality is just another example of “not queer enough”. While I can see why some people might get defensive about sex and sluthood in a world where sex has been simultaneously commodified and monogamised, I also think that the asexual not-interested-in-sex orientation is completely valid (and, after all not really that heterosexually hegemonic when you consider that the reproductive family unit is promoted as the foundation of society). The confounding of asexuality with being anti-sex seems commonplace. But just because someone would rather eat cake than have sex, doesn’t mean they want to stop other people from relishing in the activity.
What I like about the way asexuality embraces romance and other ways of understanding attraction, is the reminder that it’s not all about sex. Like this entry on affectional orientation states, romance and sex are all part of a larger fabric of human relationality. Embracing terms like panromance (or polyromance, biromance, demisexuality, etc!) even if you aren’t an ace, broadens our ability to conceptualise our own orientations and experiences, and can help us to build a multi-faceted self-understanding rather than a straight and narrow approach. So let’s embrace the A in the alphabet soup- we should sit down and share some cake together sometime, we might just learn something new about ourselves in the process.