This has all been said before

I am making one more submission to the June 2022 Carnival of Aces (on the theme “Throwback” hosted by Aspec of Stardust) because I had follow-up thoughts. I did quite a bit of reading of old carnival submissions during and after writing my initial two-part submission; and I realized that the things I’ve been writing about in my last few posts, are things that have been written about a decade ago. I wanted to highlight some of the things that had been said back then.

Kaz wrote, in August 2011, in “A/romanticism”:

And, well, what the hell was romantic attraction anyway? … I’m still looking for an answer to this question, by the way. The only remotely useful one I’ve found is “it’s romance if you think it’s romance”, which is at least clear in its definition but kind of very very circular. There’s components that are often a part of romance (sexual interest, exclusivity, primary relationship, crush, specific types of strong emotional connection, desire for approval, etc.), but I haven’t found a single one that’s present in all romantic relationships or that’s never present in nonromantic relationships.

This is echoed by Ace Eccentric, who also wrote in August 2011, in “What’s Important”:

It’s really hard to avoid the reality that many of the things people put down for determining that a relationship is romantic are also on the lists that other people are compiling for relationships that they are sure are not romantic. Intensity of emotion? Durability of emotion? Wanting to live with a person? Equally likely, from what I’ve seen, to appear on both the romantic and non-romantic lists.

And these are remarkably similar to Sciatrix’s thoughts from May 2011 in “Writhing in the Throes of Unrequited Like”:

It would probably help if I subscribed to a binary understanding of friendship/romance, wherein you have a bunch of friends who you’re rather fond of and like to hang out with sometimes and, basically, like, and then you have your romantic partners who get to cuddle with you and matter more than everyone else and whom you love. Except I don’t, because that trivializes friendships and also would mean that I am dating about ten people by now, some of whom are in monogamous romantic relationships with other people. And I don’t think I am anyone’s secret hidden love affair.

Back to Kaz in “A/romanticism”:

ALSO, I worry that by calling my relationship and desired relationship “in between friendship and romance” (which again feels a bit like I’m boxing it in) I’m trying to get relationship points from the hierarchy – that because I don’t want what I have with my not!GF to be dismissed as “just” friendship I’m calling it sort of romantic ish in a way in order to get some of the importance that gets accorded to romantic relationships in our society – when really I should be trying to break down the hierarchy altogether, point out that friendship doesn’t have to be “just”, and that there are more options than friendship or romance.

These thoughts were also reflected by Vesper in 2018 in an untitled Tumblr post:

that feel when you finally have a use for relationship terminology, but none of it makes sense to you because all of it is predicated on the assumption that you subscribe to the dichotomy of “romantic” vs “[queer]platonic”– not to even mention the equally taxing concept that is “alterous”.

which leaves me in the the very same position regarding relationship terminology that i’m in regarding ace identity terminology; rejecting such a binary system of terminology and categorization / conceptualization of relationships and identity all together, while still having it forced onto me by society as well as by a community that ought to know better.

And finally, some thoughts from Elizabeth from August 2011, thoughts I can relate to 100% in “Overthinking It”:

If somebody tells me that they’re “romantically attracted” to someone, I don’t know whether that means they experience a myriad of other kinds of attraction to them that they’re smushing into one term, I don’t know whether it includes limerence or not, I don’t know what level of infatuation is involved, and I don’t know whether it includes an actual desire to be in a “romantic relationship” (whatever that means to them) with them or not. Different people use it to refer to any or all of these things.

Likewise, if someone tells me they’re aromantic, I don’t know whether that means they just don’t experience the “in love” feeling (aka limerence), or whether they choose not to get involved with romantic relationships—and if it means the latter, I don’t know what relationships they don’t want beyond the most conventional romantic relationship imaginable. They might want a Boston Marriage-type thing, which I would usually consider romantic, but not everybody does. I’d have to ask for more information to know what specifically they mean by aromantic.

I would like to see less emphasis on categorizing people according to their “romantic orientation” in the asexual community (and MUCH less emphasis on doing so outside of the community). It’s a useful concept insofar as it provides a non-sexual alternative to gender-based inclinations toward attraction, but beyond that, its usefulness rapidly deteriorates. Communication gets really sticky when people are using different definitions for the same word, and using the term “romantic orientation” in particular leads to a lot of trouble, because it references the concept of romance, which is not really one concept but many bundled up into one word. I prefer to avoid it, and use the term “affectional orientation” instead. But, since this is not a commonly used term, I sometimes just go with the more well-known term for simplicity’s sake.

The quotes above are particularly relevant to the post I wrote on “My personal frustrations with trying to understand romantic orientation and romantic attraction”, but I think they are relevant to some of my other recent posts too (“The amatonormative reason behind why I used to think I was biromantic”, “Thinking in terms of life partnerships vs. friendships” Part 1 & Part 2, “Living situations I’ve had; living situations I’ve wanted”.)

If I had read these blog posts before, would I have even written the last few of my posts? I don’t know. It’s a good question. But these thoughts have been around for a long time and maybe they’ve had some impact on the conversation, but not enough so that a decade later, someone like me wouldn’t come around voicing the same frustrations. I don’t know if my contribution to this conversation will have much impact. And maybe another decade later, another blogger will come around writing about these very same frustrations. I highly doubt the conversation will evolve in a way such that the ABC conversations about aromanticism, romantic relationships, romantic orientation, etc. would become less confusing. But I hope posts like mine and the ones I shared above don’t get buried in the annals of time. That’s why I’m making another submission to highlight these posts and thank the authors for having written them all those years ago.

Most of these articles are from the 2011 Carnival of Aces (“Relationships”) and the rest are from Coyote’s “Quoiro / WTFromantic: a brief timeline of disidentification with & personal rejection of romantic orientation”.

UPDATE: Will add other posts as I discover them: (1) “Romantic Attraction?” by Writing Ace

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