Allo-Aro 101

Handdrawn illustration of a mountain road scene with trees in the foreground and bushes in the background. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Resources sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Note: currently a work in progress.

Definitions

Allosexual

Someone who experiences non-conditional sexual attraction; the shape of sexual attraction experienced by someone not on the asexual spectrum.

Aromantic

Someone who experiences low, no, rare, conditional or shifting romantic attraction; someone who has a relationship to the concept of romantic attraction unsupported by alloromantic society; on the aromantic spectrum; someone who experiences romantic attraction in non-alloromantic ways; not alloromantic.

Allosexual Aromantic / Allo-Aro

Someone on the aromantic spectrum who experiences a shape of sexual attraction not included in the asexual spectrum; an aromantic who is allosexual in part or full.

Who can be allo-aro?

Any allosexual aromantic who isn’t also, solely and permanently, asexual; or any aromantic who wishes to centre their experience of sexual attraction alongside their aromanticism. Heterosexual aros, bisexual aros, pansexual aros, gay aros, lesbian aros and aros with fluid or shifting attractions inclusive of allosexuality can identify as allo-aro.

Some allo-aros identify as both asexual and allosexual or shift between them. Abrosexual aros may be entirely allosexual or experience both asexual and allosexual identities. Aceflux aros may experience allosexual identities along with their asexual ones. Being solely and permanently allosexual should never be a requirement for allo-aro identity and community participation.

Some people on the asexual spectrum who experience sexual attraction, like demisexuals or greysexuals, may also wish to identify as allo-aro. It should never be assumed, however, that all asexuals who experience sexual attraction wish to be part of or are comfortable in our community. Nor should asexuals who don’t experience sexual attraction attempt to push themselves into closed allo-aro community spaces.

As a general rule, most allo-aros should not be considered asexual, and to refer to us or contextualise us as asexual is to erase our allosexuality. This is a long-standing problem in the aromantic and asexual (a-spec) communities.

Can grey aros identify as allo-aro?

Yes! The “aro” in “allo-aro” includes and refers to all aromantic spectrum identities! Allo-aro identity does not require an absence of romantic attraction or an end-case aromantic identity. Allo-aros who experience romantic attraction, can’t distinguish between romantic/platonic attraction or need to reference other experiences or identities as shaping their aromanticism are always part of the allo-aro community.

Allo-aros listed on the community directory include demiromantics, arofluxes, nebularomantics, greyromantics and arovagues.

What does sexual attraction feel like to an allo-aro?

Sexual attraction and aromanticism are highly-individualised experiences shaped and impacted by our other identities, so it’s unlikely that any two allo-aros will have identical understandings of what sexual attraction feels like. It’s also worth noting that I speak as an autistic allo-aro, and autism impacts what I feel and how I understand and conceptualise my own identity in ways foreign to many allistics.

For me, sexual attraction is something like: fuck, that sales assistant is too pretty to live in a queer sort of way, and if we were ever in a situation where I could talk to her for long enough to figure out casual sex, my clothes would be off in five seconds flat. Sometimes this is accompanied by my fantasising about specific expressions of sexual attraction; sometimes it’s more of an abstract willingness.

For me, without the alloromantic attraction part, there’s an element of the theoretical involved. I find yesterday’s sales assistant attractive and should we ever be in a situation to have sex, I’m down for that (after talking about how autism impacts my ability to have sex). But I find that alloromantic attraction, outside of casual hook-up settings, helps push people to act on their sexual attraction–to draw enough of a connection on which sexual attraction can be acted. Without alloromanticism giving me a path to open interaction, sexual attraction becomes something I feel and something I would do, but also something I don’t know how to oblige.

(Since hook up culture is terrifying to an autistic like me, the most common result means doing nothing–a sexual attraction on which I can’t act.)

I’ll mention that fears of being seen as a predator because my sexual attraction isn’t also alloromantic don’t help, and it’s difficult to counter that when even aromantic spaces don’t encourage and normalise allo-aro experiences.

For me, aromantic sexual attraction is sexual attraction absent the follow-through alloromantic folks take for granted.

But aren’t all aromantics asexual? Isn’t aromanticism an asexual identity?

Some asexuals consider their aromanticism part of their asexuality. Some asexuals see their aromanticism and asexuality as separate identities, just as some aromantics see their asexuality and aromanticism as separate identities. (And some aromantics see their asexuality as part of their aromanticism!) Some asexuals are alloromantic–and some aromantics are allosexual.

It’s true that at present allo-aros form a smaller part of the aromantic community, but that doesn’t mean aromantics are usually or commonly asexual. Because the only way to access information about aromanticism was, historically, through the asexual community, allo-aros who identify as such are the ones fortunate enough to discover the label. Even then, that presupposed finding conversations that not only discussed aromanticism but also treated it as distinct from asexuality–something that didn’t exist until recently. Even aro-aces have challenges in finding information and resources about aromanticism with the advantage of being asexual!

Allo-aros are, most often, people who questioned if we’re asexual or are involved enough in other shapes of LGBTQIA+/queer activism to (eventually) find an educating message board, post or Tumblr blog.

Cisgender and/or heterosexual allo-aros, adult and older allo-aros, and allo-aros lacking access to internet-based LGBTQIA+ or asexual communities have fewer opportunities to find words like “aromanticism”. Most likely, unknowing allo-aros consider their aromanticism an inability to succeed at romantic relationships or a dislike of romance or romantic behaviours–expressions of personality, not an attraction-based identity. I wrote essays about my frustration with queerness being contextualised through romance narratives for years before I learnt that I could be aromantic, simply because there was nothing suggesting that aromanticism isn’t a shape of asexuality.

This is why aromantic outreach to other LGBTQIA+/queer and even mainstream communities is important. Until the world understands that aromanticism exists and isn’t predicated on possessing asexuality, and until there are places other than asexual-adjacent communities offering aromantic information, allo-aros will continue to think that our relationships to romance and romantic attraction are a personal failing. At best we feel alienated from society’s expectations that we find happiness in a long-term romantic relationship without understanding why. That inability to fulfil amatonormative expectation leads to poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety–the same negative health outcomes had by many other LGBTQIA+ people denied access to information and community.

Identity means acceptance, connection, comprehension and empowerment. We don’t yet know the best ways to connect to allo-aros who don’t know they’re allo-aro, but the misconception that aromantics must be asexual doesn’t help us in this quest to find and support our own.

Isn’t “allo-aro” a fancy way of saying “someone who sleeps around”?

“Allo-aro” describes attraction, not behaviour.

Some allo-aros like sex with many casual partners. Some like sex with one or few committed partners. Some have sex rarely or infrequently. Some have no intention of having sex at all. Some are open to sex but aren’t particularly interested in it.

Western society tends to operate on the assumption that romantic attraction is what holds people back from what it (often arbitrarily) considers “unacceptable” shapes or rates of sexual activity. That, without it, we’re heartless sluts who sleep around and never call back. This is a complete misunderstanding of how sexual and romantic attraction interact.

Because Western society also tends to assume that casual sex is only appropriate to occupy the space between romantic partners, and demeans and disparages the marginalised people who engage in it, allo-aros are as like to avoid casual sex as seek it out. Many of us are not permitted to engage in or have access to frequent, casual sexual experiences with the same freedom possessed by white, cisgender, heterosexual and abled men. Allo-aros like me may desire casual sex or disdain long-term partnerships but still struggle to participate in the few social outlets available for pursuing such interactions and fear the inevitable onslaught of sex negativity and allo-aro antagonism when we do.

(Our expressed wish for hook-up or friends with benefits relationships to remain casual often is discarded by alloromantic allosexual partners who come to desire a romantic sexual relationship.)

Aromanticism doesn’t make us more or less sexual than any other allosexual, in the same way bisexuals and pansexuals are no more or less sexual than heterosexuals. That alloromantic society presumes we are provides a steep wall to climb in the course of seeking out safe sexual experiences and relationships, should we desire them.

It’s worth noting that the idea of “someone who sleeps around” being a negative quality is nothing more than Western culture’s rampant sex negativity and slut shaming: there is a vast difference between having many or frequent sexual partners and being “heartless” or “never calling back”. We should challenge any conflation of the two and any attitudes that being an allo-aro who “sleeps around” is in any way a problematic quality. It isn’t.

Why can’t you just identify as “aro” or “aromantic”?

Many allo-aros participating in earlier stages of the aro and a-spec communities did identify as “aro” or “sexual-attraction-identity aro”, myself included. At the same time, many aro-aces used the word “aro”, along with folks who’ll become what we now know as “non-SAM aro” or “just aro”–folks who don’t have or don’t care to specify a sexual orientation identity (or consider “aro” to serve as that identity). In other words: many kinds of aromantics, possessing many different relationships to the concept of a sexual orientation identity, use “aro” and “aromantic” to express and label their shape of aromanticism.

This made it difficult to find allosexual aro content in general aro spaces. If aro-ace content is all tagged as “aromantic” and “aro”, or the number of participating aro-aces vastly overshadows the number of participating allo-aros, how do allosexual aromantics find content that doesn’t presume asexual identity or asexual experiences as relevant? Most posts in aro spaces still concern general aromanticism or experiences relevant to aros who aren’t allosexual/are asexual.

At the same time, allo-aros felt (and still feel!) as though our allosexuality was an unwelcome topic in aromantic spaces built upon a foundation of asexual norms, culture, language and access requirements. “Sex” feels like a word too dangerous to pronounce; describing the experience of sexual attraction feels too verboten when surrounded by an asexual majority. It’s still not an uncommon experience for asexuals to warn us about being too explicit even in allo-aro spaces. The aro community was and is an unsafe space for openly expressing and discussing aro experiences related to allosexuality.

We were expected to shove our allosexuality aside and focus only on our aromanticism if we wanted to be welcomed, protected and included in a-spec and aro spaces. We were expected to accept the dominance of asexual community norms in a-spec and aro spaces, even when they didn’t serve us.

“Allo-aro” acknowledges that our experiences are different. “Allo-aro” provides a space, in terms of tags and labelling, for discussions about antagonism (from allosexual alloromantics and asexuals alike), sexual attraction, sex negativity and the intersection of our aromantic and allosexual identities. “Allo-aro” helps questioning allo-aros find allo-aro content instead of aro content presuming asexual identity. “Allo-aro” connects us with other allo-aros and builds spaces safe for exploring the nuances of our identity.

“Aromantic” is a wonderful word, but it doesn’t serve my needs inside the aromantic and a-spec communities.

“Allo-aro” does.


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