Hallo, Aro: Pressure, Side One – K. A. Cook

Cover image for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction. Cover features dark pink handwritten type on a mottled green background with a large line-drawn peacock feather, several sketch-style leaves and swirly text dividers. Green arrows sit underneath each line of text. A translucent overlay of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold alloaro flag sits underneath the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: Reflections on the West’s culture of sexualisation and the ways this makes and shapes a world hostile to aromantic allosexuality.

The new rule seared into hir skin: hide the sex that taints the queer fight for straight acceptance.

Content Advisory: This piece describes several shapes of antagonism directed at women, sex workers, bisexuals/multisexuals and queer people. Please also expect references to Christianity and Catholicism, frequent use of “queer” as a plural noun, uses of the misogynistic/sex-worker antagonistic slurs “slut” and “whore”, casual references to sex acts, and many references to the expectation that idealised/acceptable sex takes place in the context of (romantic) love.

Links: PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 997 words / 5 PDF pages.

Note: This is the first in a series describing the different angles of pressure allo-aros endure from family, society, the queer/LGBTQIA+ community and, yes, the a-spec and aromantic communities. We need to better acknowledge the way Western society’s sexualisation and sexual demonisation create a world inherently toxic to allo-aros–especially when we are also subject to misogyny and monosexism.

The new rule seared into hir skin: hide the sex that taints the queer fight for straight acceptance.

(Where)

Eleven times pregnant, a woman begs her church for permission to use contraception; she gains only a priestly refusal. Her love means marriage, obedience to Catholic restriction, the forced rejection of sex. Her belief means the absence of latex and rubber, a pill, a shot, freedom. Does her husband also love her enough to forgo, once they acknowledge the truth that her body won’t survive another pregnancy and they can’t afford to feed and shelter another child?

Why should they have to? her grandchild wonders during a conversation with hir mother—one of nine living children from eleven pregnancies—about the failures of the Catholic church.

(How does hir grandmother keep faith when her religion won’t keep faith with her?)

Even hir heterosexual grandparents, compliant and believing in all other ways, cannot be permitted to fuck solely for the joy of fucking each other.

The only valid sex occurs in marriage and for children.

(Does)

Hir Catholic and Protestant parents wed sans-priest under the open sky, forgoing their children’s baptism. Ze attends church twice a year, a stranger to hir mother’s songs, and ze sighs in relief when the strangeness ends. Heathen, hir father jokes, but Christian teachings still leach into hir life through books and films, friends and acquaintances, the careless words hir parents speak about other families.

(Are you a good Christian girl?)

(Thank God my children never come home after dark.)

(She’s allowed to date when she’s thirty.)

Hir parents discard the chains of church and marriage for a nebulous religion that fails to interrogate too many ancient, book-granted beliefs: responsibility.

Sex, taught in those lessons that aren’t so much voiced as absorbed in fragments and pieced together afterwards, requires a steady partner. Remember the horrors of infections discussed in health class, remember a life veered off the respectable education-good-job-and-then-family path, remember the tangle of bad choices that make one into an object deserving of gossip and derision. Good girls gift sex’s vulnerability to as few boyfriends as possible; they never gift it carelessly.

Responsibility demands hir parents’ most proud possession: their loving (ostensibly areligious) relationship.

Responsibility demands romance first, sex second.

The rule carved into hir bones by autism’s social missteps: never provoke hir parents’ shame.

(An)

Slut! Whore! Those cruel words leap from hir sister’s tongue, even though ze doesn’t date. Sex feels too incomprehensible, too distant for actuality, too entangled with interpersonal connections, interactions and expectations. Later, ze always says, even though ze long passed the point where hir high-school bookishness and solitude garnered praise or respect. Later, ze always says, watching hir claim to adulthood fade while hir once-schoolmates and sister date, fuck and wed. Later.

Hir sister’s mouth shapes those words nonetheless, her anger devoid of irony.

Sex without romantic love is so loathsome a thing that words describing people who provide it as a professional service (presumably absent love, because love can’t be sold) become cruelties used to cut down another.

Sex without romantic love is so loathsome a thing that words describing people who fuck too frequently with too many people (presumably absent love, because love can’t be so divided) become cruelties used to cut down another.

A virgin is slut and whore when a world that demonises any sex outside the illusion of love’s constraint polishes those words into sharp-edged slurs— waiting for anyone in want of a weapon.

Ze pushes aside hir vague yearning for fucking free of a relationship ze doesn’t understand or desire, for sex bearing no resemblance to the romance-imbued scenes in hir many books.

Ze dares not give hir sister more reasons to draw hir blood.

(Allosexual)

Bisexual lurks in hir thoughts, heavy but unspoken, during the awful familial conversation in which “are you sure?” feels a dismissive return for coming out’s fear and anxiety. Lesbian bears a heart-pounding, hand-sweating dangerousness. Lesbian lacks hir high school’s carefully-voiced whispers, where rumoured-to-be-bi students’ wild exploits grew with each telling.

One is strange, unexpected, confronting. The other is strange, unexpected, confronting and irrevocably sexual—irrevocably sexualised.

(Slut.)

(Never provoke hir parents’ shame.)

Bi still sounds like threesomes, orgies, sex parties, blow jobs, unfaithfulness, sleeping around. Irresponsible. Unacceptable.

Hir sexuality involves attraction to more than a single gender, but ze fights, for reasons ze can’t explain or validate, to remain balanced on the wobbling line strung between authentic queerness and parental expectation.

(Hir grandmother dies, never knowing that her grandchild can’t fulfill any Catholic understanding of the words good and girl.)

Lesbian, ze says instead, hir coming out forever tainted by the falsehood of attempted compromise.

(Aromantic)

Love wins. Love is love. (Tautology? Redundancy?) That four-letter word peppers hir community’s fight for marriage equality and hir community’s relief (and grief) in their success. (Hir state’s passing of right-to-amend-birth-certificate laws provokes as much hate and less fanfare.) Ze watches, before and after, as hir community dons cloaks of hearts drawn in romantic pastels and flowers sewn from millennial pink, that word omnipresent and inescapable. Conformist.

(We love, just like you. We date, just like you. We marry, just like you.)

Queerness becomes defined by romance and shaped by love. Women who love women. Men who love men. Non-binaries who love non-binaries.

Ze only sees attraction now tidied, neatened, sanitised: clean and clothed bodily togetherness all devoid of musk, sweat, lube and semen. Attraction becomes two boys cuddling amongst a meadow of wildflowers, two women smiling at each other against the setting sun. Attraction becomes characters in a post-apocalyptic narrative with salon-style haircuts and lipstick, unreasonably perfect. Unreasonably safe.

The new rule seared into hir skin: hide the sex that taints the queer fight for straight acceptance.

What happened to the rebellion queers, the fuck-you queers, the fuck-me queers, the I’ll-never-be-like-you queers? What happened to celebrations of casual sexual expression? How can ze still claim queerness (without love, without dating, without marriage, without just-like-you-ness) when part of hir queerness, sex, becomes verboten?

How does ze keep faith when hir community won’t keep faith with hir?

(Belong?)

K. A. Cook is an abrosexual, aromantic, agender autistic who experiences chronic pain and mental illness. Ze writes creative non-fiction, personal essays and fiction about the above on the philosophy that if the universe is going to make life interesting, ze may as well make interesting art. You can find hir blogging at Aro Worlds and running the Tumblr accounts @aroworlds and @alloaroworlds.

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