The terms “aromantic” and “asexual” don’t mean the same thing.
As the names suggest, aromantic people experience little to no romantic attraction, while asexual people experience little to no sexual attraction. Each term contains a spectrum of identities.
Some people identify as both aromantic and asexual. However, identifying with one of those terms doesn’t mean you necessarily identify with the other.
Here’s what you need to know about being aromantic, asexual, or both.
Aromantic people experience little to no romantic attraction.
Romantic attraction is about wanting a committed romantic relationship with someone. The definition of a romantic relationship can differ from person to person.
Some aromantic people have romantic relationships anyway or may still desire a romantic relationship without feeling romantic attraction toward a specific person.
The opposite of an aromantic person is someone who does experience romantic attraction. This type of person is referred to as alloromantic.
Asexual people experience little to no sexual attraction.
In other words, they feel limited, if any, desire to have sex with other people. Asexuality is a spectrum, and some asexual people feel more sexual attraction than others.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that asexual people don’t ever have sex — it’s possible to have sex with someone without feeling sexually attracted to them. Some people in the asexual community do not have sex, while others may still choose to have sex for a number of reasons.
The opposite of an asexual person is someone who does experience sexual attraction. This type of person is referred to as allosexual.
Not all asexual people are aromantic, and not all aromantic people are asexual — but some people are both.
People who are both aromantic and asexual experience little to no sexual or romantic attraction. That doesn’t mean they don’t get into romantic relationships or have sex, though.
A person who identifies as asexual and aromantic may fall on completely different places on either spectrum.
There are many other terms people use to describe their sexual and romantic identities.
Some of the identities under the asexual or aromantic umbrella include:
- Graysexual or grayromantic. The terms “graysexual” or “grayromantic” refer to someone who experiences very limited sexual or romantic attraction. They may experience sexual or romantic attraction rarely or at very low intensity.
- Demisexual or demiromantic. The terms “demisexual” or “demiromantic” refer to someone who can feel sexually or romantically attracted only to a person they already have a strong connection with.
- Reciprosexual or recipromantic. These terms refer to someone who feels sexually or romantically attracted only to someone who is sexually or romantically attracted to them first.
- Akiosexual or akioromantic. These terms refer to someone who can feel sexual or romantic attraction but doesn’t want those feelings to be returned by whoever they’re attracted to.
- Aceflux or aroflux. These terms refer to someone whose capacity for sexual or romantic attraction changes over time.
You could identify with one or more of these terms, and your identity might shift over time.
Every aromantic asexual person is different, and each person has unique experiences when it comes to relationships.
However, if you are both aromantic and asexual, you might identify with one or more of the following:
- You’ve had little desire for a sexual or romantic relationship with a specific person.
- You struggle to imagine what it feels like to be in love.
- You struggle to imagine what lust feels like.
- When other people talk about feeling sexually or romantically attracted to someone, you can’t really relate.
- You feel neutral or even repulsed by the idea of having sex or being in a romantic relationship.
- You’re not sure if you only feel the need to have sex or be in relationships because that’s what is expected of you.
Aromantic asexual people might still have romantic or sexual relationships, depending on their feelings.
There are, after all, many motivations for having sex with someone or getting into a relationship — it’s not all about being attracted to them.
Remember that being aromantic and asexual doesn’t mean someone is incapable of love or commitment.
Outside of sexual attraction, people might want to have sex in order to:
- have children
- give or receive pleasure
- bond with their partner
- express affection
Similarly, outside of romantic attraction, people might want to have romantic relationships in order to:
- co-parent with someone
- commit to someone they love
- provide and receive emotional support
Yes! You don’t need to be in a romantic or sexual relationship to be happy.
Social support is important, but you can get that from cultivating close friendships and familial relationships — something everyone should do, with or without romantic relationships in their lives.
Some asexual or aromantic people may prefer “queerplatonic relationships,” a term that refers to close relationships that aren’t necessarily romantic or sexual. They’re closer than an average friendship.
For example, a queerplatonic relationship could involve living together, co-parenting, giving each other emotional and social support, or sharing finances and responsibilities.
It is OK to not want to have sex. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or that it’s an issue you need to fix.
Some asexual people do have sex, and some masturbate. Some don’t have sex.
Asexual people might be:
- Sex-averse: meaning they don’t want to have sex and find the thought unappealing
- Sex-indifferent: meaning they don’t feel strongly about sex either way
- Sex-favorable: meaning they enjoy some aspects of sex, even if they don’t experience that sort of attraction
People might find that their feelings toward sex fluctuate over time.
There’s no test to determine your sexual or romantic orientation — and that can make it pretty tough to figure out.
If you’re unsure whether you fit under the asexual/aromantic umbrella, you may consider the following:
- Join forums or groups — such as the AVEN forums or Reddit forums — where you can read about others’ experiences as asexual and aromantic people. This might help you figure out your own feelings.
- Talk with a trusted friend who understands what asexuality and aromanticism are.
- Join asexual- and aromantic-friendly LGBTQIA+ groups to connect with like-minded people in person.
- Do a little introspection and consider your feelings about sexual and romantic attraction.
Ultimately, only you can determine what your identity is.
Remember that every asexual or aromantic person is different and each person has their own unique experiences and feelings when it comes to relationships.
There are a number of online resources for people who want to learn more about asexuality and aromanticism.
Here are a few:
- Asexual Visibility and Education Network, where you can search the definitions of different words relating to sexuality and orientation
- The Trevor Project, which offers crisis intervention and emotional support to queer youth, including young asexual and aromantic people
- Asexual Groups, a website that lists asexual groups all over the world, as does Aces & Aros
- local asexual or aromantic groups and Facebook groups
- forums like the AVEN forum and the Asexuality subreddit
Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.