Asexuality is an orientation to describe not experiencing sexual attraction. Aromanticism is an orientation to describe not experiencing romantic attraction. Most people think of their attraction as both romantic and sexual, but these are not always aligned. Anyone can experience split attraction, so someone might be any combination of homoromantic, homosexual, biromantic, bisexual, queer, panromantic, pansexual, aromantic, asexual, or other orientations. These are also separate from gender identity.
Both asexuality and aromanticism also encompass a spectrum of identities that experience no to little sexual or romantic attraction. For example, people may identify as greyromantic or greysexual (rare attraction) or demiromantic or demisexual (attraction only after a close emotional bond is formed).
Start here with the basics on asexuality: http://www.whatisasexuality.com/
Start here with basics on aromanticism: https://aaceclub.tumblr.com/aromanticism
Asexual spectrum identities: https://www.asexuals.net/asexual-spectrum/
Aromantic spectrum identities: https://www.asexuals.net/aromantic-spectrum-from-aro-to-z/
More on aromantic and asexual spectrum identities from GLAAD, including pride flags: https://www.glaad.org/amp/ace-guide-finding-your-community
A little vocabulary lesson: ace is short for asexual, aro is short for aromantic, spec is short for spectrum.
Am I asexual? An FAQ guide: https://medium.com/@secretladyspider/i-think-im-ace-now-what-f6f07b2ff6e4
Correcting misconceptions about aromanticism: https://aromanticguide.com/
AVEN (asexuality visibility and education network) is the main asexual advocacy organization. https://www.asexuality.org/
AUREA (aromantic spectrum union for recognition, education, and advocacy) is the main aromantic advocacy organization. https://www.aromanticism.org/
Here’s a good start on how to be an ally to a-spec people: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/six-ways-be-ally-asexual-people.
How to know if you’re aromantic and how to be an ally to aro people: https://aromantic.lgbt/resources
Here’s some things that aromanticism and asexuality require us to unlearn: https://medium.com/@secretladyspider/unlearning-expectations-the-fundamentals-to-accepting-asexuality-and-aromanticism-717ed21cc86f
The links below are primarily about asexuality, but most of the concepts are either overlapping with aromantic issues and explanations or are parallel to them. I’m both aromantic and asexual, so the lines are more blurred for me than they might be to someone who is only one or the other.
There are many other types of attraction as well. For a longer list and their definitions, see this Healthline article.
If this is all normal, why do I feel so weird? Is there a term for the pressure I feel to be different? What is amatonormativity? https://elizabethbrake.com/amatonormativity/
Okay, I know what asexuality is, but what else should I know beyond the basics? Angela Chen interviewed by Anne Helen Peterson: https://annehelen.substack.com/p/we-are-more-than-a-lesson?s=r
Peer-reviewed research on asexuality and aromanticism ranges from insightful to decades behind actual LGBTQIA community experiences to wildly offensive stereotypes to actively harmful professional malpractice. The University of British Columbia is doing some good work on distinguishing asexuality from low libido/desire. https://brottolab.med.ubc.ca/
This ace-run website has a large collection of research on asexuality as well as ace history: https://asexualresearch.omeka.net/
Dr. Megan Carroll is engaging the asexuality community in her work at California State University – San Bernardino. In this video, Dr. Carroll shares as part of a panel of researchers at the 2020 UK Asexuality Conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w729AweesLo&ab_channel=UKasexualityconference2020.
Here’s another video of Dr. Carroll presenting Asexualities 101, with the results of the 2017 Asexual Community Census: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=3Eyojn351G4&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=MeganCarroll.
Dr. Bella DePaulo also does a great job researching and writing about singlism, which sometimes overlaps with aromanticism and asexuality: https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/living-single/202005/biased-against-asexuals-let-me-count-the-ways
More supportive peer-reviewed research summarized in a blog post for Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/without-prejudice/201209/prejudice-against-group-x-asexuals.
More research: https://asexualresearchstudies.carrd.co/
The 2019 Asexual Community Survey summary report with loads of statistics on the community: https://acecommunitysurvey.org/2021/10/24/2019-ace-community-survey-summary-report/
Crowd-sourced, informal polling of the asexual community: https://twitter.com/scretladyspider/status/1287901017594527746
Attraction does not equal behavior
Orientation does not always correspond to behavior. Asexual doesn’t have to mean sex-repulsed or celibate. Some asexual people can and do have sex. Some may not have sex with other people but will masturbate. Others don’t engage in any sexual activity. Similarly, aromantic people may engage in romantic activities or relationships for reasons other than attraction. Also, many aromantic people have had romantic relationships before realizing they were aromantic, and many asexual people didn’t realize they were asexual until after they had sex. While those experiences are not required to know you’re aro or ace, they are also not “proof” you’re not aro or ace. Behavior doesn’t determine orientation.
This chart describes the different stances, especially the differences between societal attitudes versus attitudes for one’s self.
This post goes into more detail: https://avenpt.tumblr.com/post/678125642502504448/sex-repulsed-sex-averse-sex-negative-all
This HuffPost series discusses many of the ways asexual people relate to sex: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/asexuality-the-x-in-a-sexual-world_n_3444417?1371476630
Can you be asexual and have a libido? And other excellent points about aces, sex, sexual attraction, and libido: https://secretladyspider.medium.com/sexual-attraction-and-libido-are-not-the-same-thing-actually-3422f9074c33
Do asexual people still have fantasies? https://www.teenvogue.com/story/what-asexuality-means/amp (This is fine, and Teen Vogue has some credibility for speaking about this when other mainstream outlets don’t want to, but there’s some controversy about a term they use.)
Unfortunately, there is a lot of trauma around sex in the asexual community. While asexuality is not caused by trauma, a history of sexual trauma may make it more complicated to come out to ourselves and others. There may also be a threat of sexual violence in reaction to our coming out. This article goes into more of the serious issues we face along with the neutral and good (trigger warnings for sexual violence): https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/asexuality-what-is-it-like-explained-by-asexual-people-a7582351.html
Asexual sexuality resources, sex education, and more nsfw material: http://annex.asexualactivities.com/
Aro and ace relationships
Use this list with your partner or friends to communicate about what you’re comfortable with: https://aromanticaardvark.tumblr.com/post/44655392052/aromanticplatonicqueerplatonic-dating-checklist
Also see this post where I asked aces and allo partners how they keep their romantic partnerships and marriages strong: https://invisiblecakesociety.com/2022/08/21/ace-and-allo-partnerships/
Excellent video from an ace YouTuber, Slice of Ace:
The history of asexuality in public discussion goes back further than you might think: https://slate.com/human-interest/2020/03/asexuality-history-internet-identity-queer-archive.amp?__twitter_impression=true
One of our “founding documents” as far as the modern Pride movement goes, is the Asexual Manifesto. While it isn’t how we would define the term today, it provides important historical context for what was going on at the time of the modern Pride movement’s formation. More here: https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2019/08/01/lisa-orlando-author-of-the-asexual-manifesto-1972/)
Early online asexual activism: https://graphicexplanations.info/2017/10/29/asexuality-bc-before-cake/
Here’s a brief timeline of key dates in asexual history: https://aces-and-aros.tumblr.com/post/179460713784/asexual-awareness-week-day-six-most-of-these-are
Ace history project in motion: https://nextstepcake.wordpress.com/resources/asexual-history/
You might notice asexual and aromantic resources are often found on Tumblr, which is where much of the a-spec community has thrived in recent years, along with Facebook groups and Twitter. Social media is often how we find each other or even find out about the label itself. Social media has done a lot of good along with a lot of bad for us.
The history of sapphic/lesbian asexuality: https://www.alpennia.com/blog/lhmpodcast-13d-beguines-boston-marriage-and-bed-death-historic-archetypes-asexual-lesbianism
Symbols and graphics
Asexual symbols, explained: https://www.asexuals.net/asexual-symbol-explained/
Aromantic and aro ace graphics for free personal, noncommercial use: https://aroarrows.wordpress.com/
The history and symbolism of cake as an ace symbol (which also explains part of the name of this blog): https://www.bonappetit.com/story/cake-dessert-asexual-symbol-pride
The big questions
Do aromantic and asexual people belong in the LGBTQIA community? https://medium.com/@secretladyspider/yes-aces-and-aros-are-queer-heres-why-4c73297f6d3a
Have they even been oppressed enough? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_against_asexual_people
Does aphobia exist? (lots of trigger warnings here for hate speech, sexual violence, threats, and much more) https://acehate-database.asexual-aces.com/
What other types of anti-asexual bias exist? https://www.asexuality-handbook.com/anti-asexual-bias
What is the history of aces in the queer movement? https://bi-asexual.tumblr.com/post/161938628812/aphostraphe-pls-give-me-1one-reason-aces-have
Do other places recognize asexuality as a valid orientation? Yes, from the AP Stylebook to Merriam Webster to the UN to Healthline to TIME magazine and many major mainstream media outlets to leading LGBTQIA groups like the Trevor Project, LGBTQNation, GLAAD, The Safe Zone Project, and Stonewall UK, asexuality is widely recognized as a real thing and part of the larger LGBTQIA community.
What is it like to be asexual? https://medium.com/@secretladyspider/asexuality-explained-with-the-color-red-baf09ae28c37
Can men/AMAB people be asexual? (YES) https://scretladyspider.medium.com/heres-what-ace-men-and-amabs-want-you-to-know-3465a477c146
Many more questions answer here at this excellent resource: https://www.asexuality-handbook.com/faq
Asexuality, aromanticism, and Christianity
Moved to its own blog post here: https://invisiblecakesociety.com/2022/01/25/aromanticism-asexuality-and-christianity/
Mental and physical health
Aro-friendly therapists and more: https://arorecommended.org/mentalhealth.html
Trevor Project research on youth asexuality and mental health: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/2020/10/26/research-brief-asexual-and-ace-spectrum-youth/
A therapist writes on four things everyone should know about asexuality (good resource to share with your therapists!) https://www.throughthewoodstherapy.com/asexuality/
The same therapist also has a PowerPoint on how to find an ace-affirming therapist, types of issues asexual people talk about in therapy, issues we encounter, and more: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zC3hThmG-SHe-naSR_l9qYuAYJ-dfMCY/view?usp=sharing
PDF explanation for medical and mental health professionals: http://asexualsurvivors.org/resources/asexuality-basics-for-health-professionals.pdf
More ace health resources: https://docs.google.com/document/d/11NdGjUcuZIz-7gHWgmktqjrya32BpdeEyqEQgUeNw4o/edit
Ace and aro teens
How to Be Ace: A memoir of growing up asexual by Rebecca Burgess
Aces and aros in fiction
List of asexual characters on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_asexual_characters#Literature
Books with aro characters: https://bookshop.org/lists/aromantic-spectrum-awareness-week
A database for finding a-spec stories: http://www.aroacedatabase.com/
Aromanticism and asexuality in mythology: https://alpennia.com/blog/lesbian-historic-motif-podcast-episode-49d-artificial-scarcity-representation-asexual
Free aro and ace fiction: http://www.pennystirling.com/free-aro-ace-fiction/
Events and celebrations
Ace Week: https://www.aceweek.org/
An importable calendar ICS file of LGBTQIA+ events: http://www.asexualityarchive.com/rainbow-reminder-an-lgbtqia-calendar/
Others writing and talking about aromanticism and asexuality
In addition to the sites above, here are more a-spec writers and resource sites:
This site also has resources for both aromanticism and asexuality: https://acesandaros.org
AZE: an online journal and literary magazine about a-spec identities: https://azejournal.com/
Asexuality Archive: http://www.asexualityarchive.com/
Asexual Outreach: https://asexualoutreach.org/
More a-spec resources here, especially about fiction: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Yl1xsU2V_uXNfcw2g1iut6gBAizuQ4NxGDjqcO7tCaQ/edit#
How do I get involved?
If you are aro or ace and want to become an activist, I’d recommend starting with social media and in your own communities. Form a local group, join broader LGBTQIA+ groups, host a Pride event, follow current activists online and get involved in their events and Discord servers and such.
Ideas for what we need in ace activism: http://www.asexualityarchive.com/ace-activism-opportunities/
Educate others about asexuality: https://www.asexuals.net/how-to-explain-asexuality-to-others/
Join an aro community message board: https://www.arocalypse.com/