Aromanticism, Asexuality, and Amatonormativity (Mars' Hill Article)
- Anonymous TWU student
Nov. 3, 2021
I have spent hours being lonely, but not wanting a man, or any romantic relationship at all. Am I messed up? Broken? Romance is a universal experience, right?
My entire life, the expectation has been that I will get married. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It will happen, and it will happen with a good Christian man. For a while, I thought I just didn't like high school guys. Then I thought I just had to wait for "the one." But if I was going to like someone, ever, wouldn't I have felt something toward someone?
I know what love is; I have felt it, deeply and compassionately. I love reading romantic stories, but always thought the portrayal of romance, and how people do the dumbest things because of it, was over-exaggerated. Then, I saw people in my life behave the same way, and thought they were faking it. Nothing could make me act that dumb. But they were not, and I realized I did not think or feel the same way.
At first, I thought I was poisoned by Christian conservatism, that I was so ashamed of my own body and emotional urges that I needed to rediscover what it meant to be a woman. That is completely not a problem anymore, but even so, I have yet to experience the yearning others do. While I thought I liked the idea of romance, I discovered (through months of therapy and tears) that I was drawn to the closeness and dedication of the relationship, not the actual physical feelings involved. I have been calling people hot and sexy my entire life, but only recently realized that there are specific, sensual feelings that are associated with those observations.
I came to Trinity Western University (TWU) expecting things to be different––for my feelings to get an upgrade. It scared me when they did not. I found myself drawn to people, maybe romantically at first, only to find myself craving their friendship, yet, disgusted at the idea of being in a romantic relationship with them. Was I too arrogant? Self-centered, egotistical? Were my standards too high? I found myself knowing when people would look attractive, but never being attracted to them. Aesthetic attraction, I found out later on, was when you appreciate the beauty of someone without feeling romantically or sexually attracted to them. Turns out, that was what I was experiencing all along.
I thought I found a place of contentment with my single friends, but then they all started getting into relationships, and I was overcome with feelings of fear and brokenness. Why the hell could I not feel anything like that? Was I destined to be alone? I did not mind not having a significant other, but I hated the thought of being abandoned by my friends who had become my family. So many people, Christians especially, view romantic partnership to be the ultimate goal of life, the peak of existence. I have seen people choose their romantic partners over all else, leaving previous friendships behind in the dust, because your romantic partner is the most important, right? What about familial relationships? Platonic ones? Of the seven Greek words for love, only two are romantically or sexually focused. So why are they considered the most important?
When I say that I am not in a relationship, and no, I am not interested in anyone, people automatically jump to the idea that I am either a closeted lesbian, or that I have turned bitter because no one is interested in me. What a poisonous narrative that is. This concept is called amatonormativity, which, according to Dr. Elizabeth Brake, is "the assumption that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans, in that it is a universally shared goal, and that such a relationship is normative, in that it should be aimed at in preference to other relationship types." Am I, as a single person, less valued? Why do people ask me if I am in a relationship, if I am even looking for a relationship, like it is a sin or there is something wrong with me if I am not?
In so many movies is it essential that the protagonist ends up in a romantic relationship in order for it to be a happy ending, even when romance is not the plot's focus. Think of the numerous narratives, for kids and adults, in which romance is a necessary part to live a fulfilling life.
Mary Magdalene, Martha, Joseph, Ruth, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Anna: they were all single. The apostle Paul was single and even talks about being "gifted" by God with singleness (1 Cor. 7:7). Not all of these people were single in order to dedicate their lives to God. So, why is it shameful? Why is it that when I have told people I identify as an aromantic asexual (lacking both romantic and sexual attraction), they think I am just complaining to justify my singleness? "Are you sure you just haven't found the right one yet?" Yes, I am, thank you. Please let me be happy and tell you why I am not looking for a relationship. Please take me seriously. Please value me as I am.
I can still feel love as fiercely and as strongly as anyone else, but I am afraid that if I tell people, they will think I am a robot that is incapable of empathizing or understanding romance. I do not want that to affect my job prospects, friendships, or family. I am scared of being judged by the things that I do not do, rather than by the things that I am. That is why this piece is anonymous. Maybe, if you do not know who I am, this will have more of an impact. Maybe you will care.
I just want to be chosen first. I want someone to know all of my flaws, but love me anyway, and know me inside and out. But who will pick me first if everyone else has already picked their romantic partner?