Have you, or someone you know, ever said that they would date someone of a certain gender but are not interested in having sex with them? Or maybe they’d be interested in sex, but not a romantic relationship. If you have, that may mean you have two different orientations.
An individual’s orientation can be broken down into these two categories, wherein both of which have their own sub-categories: romantic Orientation and sexual Orientation.
Many people assume that romance and sexuality are intertwined, but, in reality, that is not the case. People may also assume that others have to be sexual or that people have to have aligning orientations. I’m here to explain that romantic orientations and sexual orientations are not the same thing and that they are not co-dependent variables.
What is Sexual Orientation?
Sexual orientation is what most people think of when they ask about personal preferences. It is, simply, a word to describe who you are sexually attracted to/who you find sexually appealing. These are simple things: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual. However, people automatically assume that everyone is sexual and therefore asexuality does not exist.
Fun fact: Asexuals do exist but that does not mean they are not romantically interested in people.
To start simple: Not all asexuals are aromantic and not all aromantics are asexual.
Asexual: A sexual orientation that states that a person does not experience sexual attraction.
What is Romantic Orientation?
Romantic orientation is a personal preference in which people describe who they are romantically attracted to.
Aromantic: A romantic orientation that states that a person does not experience romantic attraction.
A person can experience sexual attraction to others, but not romantic attraction. The opposite applies as well. A person can experience romantic attraction but not sexual attraction. The latter is the more common scenario of the two, but both happen.
There are more complicated combinations as well.
A person can identify as a biromantic heterosexual. This means that a person experiences romantic attractions to two-genders (typically male and female, although female and male aren’t the only genders), while only experiencing sexual attraction to those of the opposite sex (if we’re talking about cisgendered people who believe in the gender binary). There are those who may consider themselves to be straight/hetero, when the reality is they might be heteroromantic asexual—or any variant of that. On the flip side, sometimes people are homoromantic and asexual (variants apply).
The point being: people are complicated so don’t assume you know them. There is a plethora of orientation combinations that I have not mentioned—but if you can think of it it probably exists.
Stay open minded and don’t dismiss the existence of something just because you don’t understand it. By doing so, you are trying to erase people’s existence and remove representation and awareness. The best way to increase understanding is to increase awareness.