We’re thrilled to welcome author Canadian author Claudie Arseneault to the blog today!
Happy February 19, 2017 everyone–or, as my community as come to know it, the start of this year’s Aromantic Awareness Week!
When I was invited to guest blog here on aromanticism, I wasn’t sure what to talk about. My mind was casting for a specific topic, but in truth, aromanticism is a still fairly unknown part of the QUILTBAG, and how better to start a week meant to raise awareness than with some Important Basics™
So here we go! Start here, and keep your eyes (and search bars) ready for the rest of week!
The standard definition of aromanticism is that one does not experience romantic attraction. This means aromantic people don’t experience crushes or intense desire to build romantic relationships with specific people. And this definition comes with a ton of caveats! Why? Because, much like asexuality (which is no sexual attraction), aromanticism is a large, complex, and diverse spectrum of experiences. Some aromantics are repulsed by the very association of romance with them while others absolutely do want a romantic partner (or several!)—they just aren’t drawn that way to anyone in particular. Add to these demiromantics (who develop attraction after a deep connection has been established), grey-aromantics (who experience it once in a never) as well as a plethora of other spectrum identities, and you have a wide variety of experiences.
Hard to universalize, isn’t it? Impossible, even. And yet we all face the struggle of erasure and dehumanization, although it can be shaped slightly differently from one aromantic to the next. So let’s look at some common PLEASE DON’T of representation.
The DON’T of Aromanticism Representation
Don’t equate humanity to romance. Some days I can’t believe this needs to be said, but it does because it happens all the time. “Love makes us all human” or “this romantic plotline really added depth/humanity to an otherwise flat character” or any more or less subtle variant. This one shows up a lot in fantasy with the Dark Evil Villain who is Incapable of Love™. Yes, I’m looking straight at Harry Potter right now.
Don’t “teach them to love”. Storylines dedicated to teaching an aromantic character (or anyone, really) to love imply that this is a problem that needs to be fixed. Characters who need to be taught how to love are typically either a) inhuman at the beginning (robots have this a lot), or b) unhappy/evil until the aforementioned teaching happens. This is dehumanizing for aromantic people and it needs to stop.
Don’t hierarchize your love. You know how people often say two lovers are “more than friends”? It’s so common it seems benign, but when aromantic people read that, what they hear is that their relationships will never reach the highest level. They are incapable of what is deemed the most complete, thorough, beautiful, and enjoyable type or relationship there is. And that’s a goddamn lie. We are fully capable of intense, fulfilling, and intimate relationships without romance. All this hierarchy does is reinforce the idea romance is the purest–as if non-romantic love isn’t every bit as valid and important. Upholding friendship and other non-romantic relationships as equal to romance is extremely validating to a lot of aromantic people.
Don’t equate aromanticism to being cold, distant, unloving, broken. We hear those a lot already, thank you very much. Unless your character is literally freezing, avoid those words. And yes, feeling broken is a huge part of our narratives, but I heartily advise you leave that sensible ground to us.
Don’t imply or state romance is a necessary part of storytelling. Or that it makes a story deeper, more complex, etc. This overlaps a lot with my first point. And also with maintaining a hierarchy of loves. Romance is no more necessary to good storytelling than dragons: it can be super fun, but plenty of good stories exist (or should exist!) without it!
So how do you avoid all of those as a reader? Honestly, you don’t. They’re too common. But one reason I love the fantasy and science-fiction genres is how often it centres small groups–crews on a ship, adventuring parties, magical girl teams, etc. While romance is often a feature in those stories, they still typically feature other types of strong bonds, providing me with all the Good Feels I need. Now if I could get those with canon aromantic characters to boot, I would be in business!
Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very French Québec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The most recent, City of Strife, comes out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!