How to Ally: Advising for Sex-Negative Language

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Note: I consider this site’s content advisory page sufficient for non-fiction posts, but as I need asexuals to read this essay, I’ll begin by saying that I reference sexual attraction, sex acts, sex repulsion and sexualisation. And romance! I also cite common examples of sex negativity/sex-negative language, misogyny, ableism, cissexism, heterosexism, amatonormativity and allo-aro antagonism.

I now seldom participate in–and even actively avoid–online general aromantic and a-spec spaces.

This isn’t because I don’t wish to meet other aros. This isn’t because I’m uninterested in what other aros have to say. This also isn’t entirely because chronic pain limits my online interaction and I can’t afford the supports/technology needed for full access (although this is the reason why I fail in replying to comments and asks).

This is because any space predominantly occupied by asexuals results in my being exposed to posts that hurt like a punch to the gut.

Continue reading “How to Ally: Advising for Sex-Negative Language”

How (Not) to Ally: The Good and Bad of Allo-Aro Rep

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

How (Not) to Ally is a series discussing the supportive content made by well-meaning asexual allies to allo-aros–and why some approaches still fail to recognise, promote, welcome, protect and include us.

It’s now not uncommon to see alloromantic allies asking questions about how best to write (or not write) aro characters. It’s also not uncommon, in response to open questions or in discussing a-spec and/or aro representation, to see not-allosexual aros and alloromantic asexuals reference allo-aros in their answers. Writers should include and depict a diversity of aros in their works, so we do need our asexual kin to remember us!

Unfortunately, most discussions argue that good allo-aro representation encompasses the following:

  • Sex occurring in the context of close, intimate, “serious” relationships or partnerships
  • Emphasis on monogamy or exclusivity
  • Idealised, non-harmful depictions of sexual relationships
  • Emphasis on possession of meaningful, intimate bonds with other people
  • Capacity and desire for friendship and emotional intimacy
  • Emphasis on ability to love and experiencing love for others
  • Focusing on non-sexual thoughts and experiences
  • Avoidance of sexualisation
  • Emphasis on healthiness and “wholeness”

When I look upon such lists, all I know is this: they do not include me.

Continue reading “How (Not) to Ally: The Good and Bad of Allo-Aro Rep”

Aro Week: My (Personal) Aromantic Manifesto

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Over the last few years, the aromantic community has seen a comparative outpouring of recognition. It’s less common to see multi-identity art posts that remember asexuals but forget aromantics; it’s more common to see LGBTQIA+ blogs, spaces and communities referencing aromanticism. On Tumblr, I can find a wealth of positivity posts affirming many aromantic-spectrum experiences and even resources that reference aromanticism. Our existence, individually and collectively, is no longer solely the province of obscure art and essays … or presumed to be encompassed by asexuality.

We have a long way to go in acknowledging, including, supporting and protecting non-asexual aros, grey-umbrella aros, loveless aros, fluid and flux aros, aros of colour, non-English-speaking aros and disabled aros. Many of our gains have not yet reached or served all aromantics. The online aromantic world of 2021, however, bears little resemblance to that of 2011.

Past Aro Week content centres on demonstrating our existence: what we are, experience, feel, need, deserve. Now, though, such explanation feels repetitive; in 2021, I yearn to look inward, to face the questions underpinning my essays and storytelling. What does my aromanticism look like? What understandings, beliefs and obligations do I consider an inherent part of my aromantic identity? What do I owe other aromantics? What do other aromantics owe me?

This manifesto–my manifesto–details my belief in the creation of aromantic identity and community that refuses repackaged amatonormativity, rejects sex negativity and celebrates our radical, queer divergence from normal. Built from the bones of my intersection of identities and experiences, this list is limited at best and blinkered by my privileges at worst. Nor have I lived up to all its goals, because I am as flawed and hypocritical as any other human.

It is the start of an attempt to answer one question: what do I believe, as an aromantic seeking to understand and conceptualise aromanticism?

Continue reading “Aro Week: My (Personal) Aromantic Manifesto”

Discussing Allo-Aro Identity (And Why Fluid Folks Need Better Definitions)

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

I began my Allo-Aro 101 page by defining the words “allosexual” and “aromantic”. If “allosexual” is uncommon terminology outside a-spec spaces, “allo-aro” (in all its grammatical and stylistic permutations) is even less accepted. “Aromantic” itself voyages into arcane language, often understood by outsiders as only a relationship to or a form of asexuality. Visitors to this website may not know what “allo-aro” means, so–limited by current terminology and conceptualisations of the split attraction model–I follow the well-trodden educator’s path of first mimicking a dictionary.

I consider my following explanation more important, as an allo-aro whose relationship to this identity cannot exist untouched by fluidity:

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.

I can count on one hand (with spare fingers!) how often I’ve seen fellow a-specs acknowledge attraction’s potential fluidity in their defining of “allo-aro”. In stressing adverbs like “permanently”, I am an outlier in the genre of explaining allo-aro identity and community membership.

Most allo-aros explain our identity by the words comprising this term: allosexual and aromantic. What more need one say on this subject after coming to agreed-upon meanings for the words “allosexual” and “aromantic”? What more need one say than to explain that allo-aros are aromantic and not-asexual?

Such an explanation erases a non-zero number of fluid allo-aros (not to mention forcing aromantics who are neither asexual nor allosexual, or reject identifying with this binary construct, under the allo-aro umbrella).

It erases me.

Continue reading “Discussing Allo-Aro Identity (And Why Fluid Folks Need Better Definitions)”

Hallo, Aro: Question – K. A. Cook

Banner 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 aromantic desire to avoid family members’ amatonormative questions about dating–and the ways attaining this freedom can speak less about aromantic inclusion and more about heterosexist erasure and queer antagonism.

How can this be the aromantic dream when your queerness quiets the room?

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Question – K. A. Cook”

How (Not) to Ally: Absent Authors, Empty Exhortations

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

How (Not) to Ally is a series discussing the supportive content made by well-meaning asexual allies to allo-aros–and why some approaches still fail to recognise, promote, welcome, protect and include us.

Allo-aros are now more commonly referenced in asexual-authored content discussing the aromantic and a-spec communities. That’s great! We need acknowledgement of our needs, viewpoints and experiences. We need our allies including us in discussions of amatonormativity and a-spec/aro antagonism, especially when they occur in broader a-spec spaces in which we don’t yet safe or comfortable.

Unfortunately, this means seeing comments like these:

  • “Allo-aros feel alienated from the a-spec community”
  • “I’ve heard allo-aros say they don’t feel allowed to mention their allosexuality”
  • “Allo-aros often talk about how to include them in community projects”

Inclusion also means witnessing a direction that’s become horribly overused:

  • “To learn more, go follow allo-aro blogs!”

This always leaves me wondering: which allo-aro discussed that? Which allo-aro activist or creator provided resources outlining community inclusion? Which allo-aro blogs does the speaker think we should follow? Why are our asexual allies so reluctant to mention us by name?

Continue reading “How (Not) to Ally: Absent Authors, Empty Exhortations”

When Asexuals Belong In Allo-Aro Spaces

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

On my Allo-Aro 101 page, after explaining what the words “aromantic” and “allosexual” mean, I state whom the label “allo-aro” represents:

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 can identify as allo-aro.

(Allosexual, as a general rule, means “experiences sexual attraction while not on the asexual spectrum”.)

This isn’t a description common to those folks concerned with explaining and defining allo-aro identity. In most circumstances, a-specs define allo-aro as “aromantic and allosexual” or “aromantic and not asexual”.

Allo-aro is positioned in opposition to asexuality to such a point that it is difficult to define why allo-aro exists as an aromantic identity without referencing asexuality. In practice, it has become a rallying cry of I am aromantic but not asexual against a broader culture of assuming aromanticism is only valid, acceptable or safe when paired with asexuality. Why shouldn’t allo-aros stick to those simple definitions? Why complicate matters with additional words like “solely” or “permanently”?

If we regard allo-aro identity as a mere statement of one’s present allosexuality and aromanticism, I’m not currently allo-aro.

Continue reading “When Asexuals Belong In Allo-Aro Spaces”

Carnival of Aros: Aro Community Wishlists

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Sennkestra on Next Step Cake asked this question for November’s Carnival of Aros, with specific mention of allo-aros in the explanatory post:

What kind of community spaces and resources do you want to see more of, as an aro-spec person?

My wishlist as an allo-aro who must interact with the a-spec and aromantic communities is singular: an a-spec audience. A supportive, responsive audience that recognises the a-spec community’s current tendency to overlook, disregard or paraphrase allo-aro expression, and will make a concerted effort to promote and support the creating of allo-aro content, resources and communities.

That’s it, done. The shortest essay I will ever write.

Not so much.

The problem is that this well-intended question encapsulates the challenge I face as an allo-aro interacting with the aromantic and a-spec communities.

I can answer it as it’s meant. I don’t need to start from scratch; I can rework several old posts into a new essay. This isn’t novel to me, given that this post about allo-aros in the aromantic community is a rework of this post about a-spec community inclusion for allo-aros (which was a rework of an earlier @alloaroworlds post). I can dredge up the answers scattered across two blogs and piece them together anew in the hope my needs will be better acknowledged by asexual a-specs. This is the spirit in which the question is asked and in which most people will and are expected to answer.

How many more times must I repeat myself?

Continue reading “Carnival of Aros: Aro Community Wishlists”

How to Ally: Discussing Allo-Aros in the Aro Community

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

It’s a common allo-aro experience to see well-meaning allies defending us by the use of discussion points that reinforce the erasure and othering they’re meant to counteract. Allies signal-boosting allo-aro works by arguing that they’re also useful for aro-ace understandings of aromanticism, for example, looks like a positive action at first glimpse but continues to contextualise allo-aros in terms of our relationship to asexuality.

How should folks discuss us, then? How should folks discuss the reality that allo-aros are not always regarded as a fundamental part of our shared community or fully supported within it? What words do we use if allo-aros are going to get upset when we’re just trying to be helpful?

So please find a list of discussion points, goals and shapes of activism that are more likely to make us feel that we do have allies willing to acknowledge our experiences and feelings.

Continue reading “How to Ally: Discussing Allo-Aros in the Aro Community”

Aro: Language, Identity and Reflection

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

I’m K. A. Cook. I run several accounts with “aro” in the title: Aro Worlds on Patreon and WordPress, @aroworlds on Tumblr, @alloaroworlds on Tumblr, @aroflagarchive on Tumblr and Aro Arrows on WordPress.

Aro, the shortened version of aromantic, is a significant part of my creativity, my identity, my self-expression and my digital noms de plume.

After a few years of identifying only as aromantic, I now name myself arovague, idemromantic and nebularomantic. I need the specificity of these micro-identity terms, because a general word like aromantic doesn’t always fit my identity and these words better centre my autism in how I understand aromanticism, romance and attraction. Having the truth of these more-specific ways of identifying my aromanticism lets me again feel comfortable with “aro” and “aromantic”, even if I no longer define myself by an absence of romantic attraction instead of an absence of alloromantic understandings of romantic attraction.

I can identify myself in relation to a larger group of people with whom I have similarities in not being wholly and permanently alloromantic: aro and aromantic. I can identify myself in relation to a smaller sub-group of people that more closely share my aromantic experiences: nebularomantic, arovague, idemromantic. One speaks to a broader coalition, a category of experiences; one speaks to specific ways of experiencing and understanding my aromanticism.

I’m not, in this post, speaking for any other aro. I’m giving voice to my fears and beliefs; I’m sharing and explaining the decisions I have made concerning language and identity. Just as no other aromantic has my relationships to my identities, neither have I seen another aromantic voice my exact experiences of alienation and connection. You don’t need to agree with my conclusions, but I do ask that you respect them.

So I’ll begin with this declaration: I am aro and aromantic.

I will no longer identify myself, my projects, my communication or my community with the term “aro-spec”.

Continue reading “Aro: Language, Identity and Reflection”