Introduction to Sexuality, Gender, Romantic Orientations, and the Asexual Spectrum
Let’s start with the basics: what are sexualities, genders, and romantic orientations?
First off, let’s establish that romantic and sexual attraction are two very distinct, very different things. A romantic attraction would mean you can imagine being romantically involved (i.e. in a relationship) with someone, whereas sexual attraction is being attracted to someone in solely a sexual manner.
While the two often overlap, they are explicitly separate in nature. Just as you may have heard of people identifying as bisexual, people can identify as biromantic. Oftentimes, someone who is bisexual is biromantic, but this is not always the case, and someone’s sexuality and romantic orientation do not have to be the same.
Next, let’s address gender. Gender is not just how you express yourself or your sex assigned at birth. In fact, there are six sex chromosome variations that are recognised as the most common biological sexes (these are: X, XX, XXY, XY, XYY, XXXY) and we haven’t even addressed intersex people. To keep this simple: gender doesn’t stop at physical biology. Someone can be AFAB (assigned female at birth) and identify as a man.
Now, this is important too: gender expression does not depend on what gender someone identifies as. So a man can dress more feminine, and a woman can dress more masculine, but that expression has nothing to do with the gender they identify as. Just like clothes do not have an assigned gender, wearing certain clothes does not determine what someone’s gender is. This especially applies to nonbinary folks. Someone who identifies as nonbinary can wear a dress if they want, but that does not make them a woman any more than a man wearing eyeliner makes him a woman. They are still nonbinary, and they do not owe anyone androgyny*. Gender expression does not define one’s gender, it is simply how they choose to express themselves.
That being said, here’s the first part of our Guidebook to Understanding the Alphabet Mafia.
A Guide to the Alphabet Mafia: Part 1
Welcome to A Guide to the Alphabet Mafia! In this series of articles, we’ll explain every sexuality, romantic orientation, and gender that we can. This volume briefly covers allosexuality, asexuality, graysexuality, and demisexuality alongside alloromanticism, aromanticism, grayromanticism, and demiromanticism.
Disclaimer: sexualities, romantic orientations, and genders can be complex topics! This series may only describe the simpler parts of each one. As with any article, additional research is highly suggested.
Allosexuals (also known as “allos”) are people that do experience sexual attraction. They are not asexual, and allosexuality is not limited by who someone is attracted to. For instance, a heterosexual and a homosexual are both considered allosexual. Allosexuality is an umbrella term used to refer to anyone who does not fall on the ace portion of the aro ace spectrum.
To put it simply, someone who is asexual does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuals (also known as “aces”) may not experience this attraction for a variety of reasons, ranging from being repulsed by it to simply having no interest in sex as a concept or activity. Contrary to popular belief, not all aces abstain from having sex. While they do not feel sexual attraction, some choose to be intimate with their partners – whether it be for fun or simply because their partner wants to. Despite not having sexual attraction itself, many aces may find sex itself pleasurable. Some have no desire to have sex but have nothing against it if someone presents the idea.
Graysexuals (also known as “gray asexuals” or “gray aces”) are people who experience very little sexual attraction. While it is very similar to being asexual – and is often considered a part of the ace spectrum – it is not the same. They experience less sexual attraction than the average person, but they still experience it. Many graysexuals describe it as feeling a small percentage of the desire for sex typically portrayed by the media.
Demisexuality (also known as being “demi”) is when someone only feels sexual attraction once they’ve gotten close to somebody. They have to form a – typically emotional – bond with someone in order to feel the desire for sex. They do not experience sexual attraction towards strangers or people they met that one time they went to the bar. If there’s no connection, there’s no desire.
An alloromantic is someone who experiences romantic attraction. Alloromanticism is not limited by who someone is attracted to. For instance, a biromantic and a heteroromantic would both be considered alloromantic. Alloromanticism is an umbrella term generally used to refer to anyone who is not on the aromantic portion of the aro ace spectrum.
An aromantic (also known as an “aro”) is someone who experiences no romantic attraction. This typically goes hand in hand with asexuality, though it does not have to.
A grayromantic is someone who experiences very little romantic attraction. Much like graysexuality, it is similar to aromanticism, but not the same.
A demiromantic is someone who cannot experience romantic attraction without getting close to somebody – a relationship has to be built for a relationship to be built, if you will.
Have any sexualities, romantic orientations, or genders you’d like to learn more about? Would you like us to go more in-depth on a particular topic? Feel free to send in a request at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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